Not Real News

This Wednesday photo shows a sign for the Gold Spa massage business in Atlanta, the day after multiple people were killed at three massage spas in the Atlanta area. On Friday, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly asserting that on Tuesday, March 16, hours before police say Robert Aaron Long, 21, killed eight people at three Atlanta-area massage businesses, he posted on his Facebook that China was engaged in a “COVID coverup” and “AMERICANS NEED TO FIGHT BACK AGAINST CHINA, NOW.” But the post is not authentic. The fictitious image began circulating Tuesday night after Long, was identified as a suspect in the mass shootings that took place at the Atlanta-area massage businesses. 

THE CLAIM: On Tuesday, hours before police say Robert Aaron Long killed eight people at three Atlanta-area massage businesses, he posted on Facebook that China was engaged in a “COVID coverup” and “AMERICANS NEED TO FIGHT BACK AGAINST CHINA, NOW.”

THE FACTS: The post is not authentic. The fictitious image began circulating Tuesday night after Long was identified as a suspect in the mass shootings that took place at the Atlanta-area massage businesses.

The image is designed to look like a Facebook post made by Long. It uses a picture of him, which was circulating widely in media reports Tuesday night, next to what looks like a Facebook update that accuses China of a “COVID coverup” and calls the country “THE GREATEST EVIL OF OUR TIME.”

In an email, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said the platform was removing the post.

“We’ve confirmed that these screenshots are fake and we’re removing them from the platform for violating our policies,” Stone said in a statement.

Still, the manipulated image continues to be shared by some on Twitter and Facebook. The falsified screenshot was also being picked up by outlets that serve the Korean American community, and news sites in South Korea, in their coverage of the shootings.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry earlier said that its diplomats in Atlanta have confirmed that four of the victims who died were of Korean descent. Tuesday’s mass shooting has raised further fear amid a surge in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans.