That Photo 'Debunking' the Paris Protest Fires is Actually Bullshit

Did you see the tweets supposedly “debunking” the huge fires that were burning during the protests in Paris? In reality, the “debunkers” are bullshit. The photos weren’t merely taken from different perspectives—they were taken on completely different days on completely different streets.

First take a look at the the bullshit “debunkers” with sarcastic titles like “Paris burns” and “perspective matters,” which have racked up tens of thousands of view online:

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The suggestion, of course, is that these two photos show the same scene and news photographers are intentionally messing with the perspective to make the fire look bigger than it is. But nothing could be further from the truth.

AFP has posted a thread that shows the two photos used to “debunk” this narrative were taken at different times. As the AFP points out, the photo on the left was taken on December 1, 2018 by Karine Pierre, a news photographer at the Hans Lucas agency in France.

Photo from the website of Karine Pierre that’s being taken out of context by internet users to spread disinformation online
Screenshot: Karine Pierre

But the photo on the right in all these tweets was taken on December 8, 2018, on a different street in Paris, by a photographer at the magazine Le Point.

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Screenshot: Twitter

It’s not clear who first posted these two photos together, nor is it clear whether they were just dumb or were intentionally deceitful. But the AFP has a great rundown on the two photos and expertly dissects why they’re actually different streets. The two photos seems like they could be from the same street, but in reality they’re not showing the same fire.

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The so-called “yellow vest” protests in Paris are indeed intense, and have even led to real reforms already, including a pledge by Emmanuel Macron to raise the minimum wage. But these two photos, when placed together, create a misleading picture of what’s happening on the ground.

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Don’t believe everything you see online. Even if it claims to be a “debunker.” Who will fact-check the fact-checkers? The AFP will, at least for now. And we’re glad they’re on the case.

[AFP Factcheck]

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About the author

Matt Novak

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog