Fact check: Vaccine-related misinformation about Trudeau, tennis players and microchips swirls on social media

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Covid-19 is spreading less quickly in the US communities that were hit first with the Omicron variant. But misinformation about coronavirus vaccines continues to spread widely on social media.

Fact check: Vaccine-related misinformation about Trudeau, tennis players and microchips swirls on social media
© PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images Syringes wand vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared to be administered to front-line health care workers under an emergency use authorization at a drive up vaccination site from Renown Health in Reno, Nevada on December 17, 2020.

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Here are the facts around a few of the many false claims that were circulating in January.

A fake post that claimed to be from Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau

Global Tech News Daily

Several posts on social media are claiming that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted on Facebook encouraging people not to interact with the unvaccinated.

A tweet from January 31 includes a screenshot of a post allegedly from Trudeau that says: “Please help do your part to make this stop: if you have family or friends that still haven’t been vaccinated, do not allow them to family dinners, do not speak to them on the phone, do not reply to their texts. You need to do everything you can to make life difficult for them until they comply.”

Global Tech News Daily

The tweet was shared amid international media coverage of a protest by a group of Canadian truckers and others opposed to vaccine mandates, Covid-19 restrictions and the Trudeau government.

Facts First: The Facebook post in the screenshot is phony. Trudeau did not post any message encouraging anyone to make life difficult for the unvaccinated.

Representatives from Trudeau’s office told CNN that “this is not our post.”

CNN reviews of Trudeau’s official Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts did not find any post that included the material from the viral screenshot, nor any other language from Trudeau asking people not to speak to or text with unvaccinated family members.

Twitter flagged one of the posts of the phony screenshot as containing manipulated media. Both the Associated Press and Reuters have also fact-checked it.

A false claim about Microsoft and microchips

A January 16 tweet, which has gained more than 1,200 “likes,” falsely claims that Microsoft is testing a chip to hold vaccine information that would be implanted in a person’s skin. It claims that “human trials will start this July on a micro-chip implant smaller than a pin-head that will hold your booster status and other information to enable a fast and easy way to access things like shops and events.”

Originally posted by a Twitter account parodying United Kingdom Member of Parliament Matt Hancock, a Conservative who formerly served as the country’s secretary for health and social care, a screenshot of the tweet has also been circulated on Facebook. Although the bio of the original poster clearly states that it’s a parody account, some users engaging with the tweet and screenshots of it are taking its contents seriously.

Facts First: This is false. Microsoft is not testing any microchip technology on humans.

A Microsoft spokesperson told CNN that the company “is not conducting human trials of micro-chip implants.”

The post was previously fact-checked by USA Today.

This is not the first time Microsoft has been the subject of misinformation linking skin implanted microchips and Covid-19 vaccines. In June 2020, claims circulated on social media that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, a favorite subject of conspiracy theories, would seek to chip individuals when they received the vaccine. At the time, vaccines were still in development, and none had been authorized for emergency use. Asked by reporters about the false theory in June 2020, Gates said that “it’s almost hard to deny this stuff because it’s so stupid or strange.”

A false claim about vaccinated tennis players and the Australian Open

The 2022 Australian Open tennis tournament was the subject of coronavirus-related controversy when the Australian government prevented world No. 1 player Novak Djokovic from participating because he was unvaccinated. That has included misinformation about players who were vaccinated.

Articles and posts on Twitter have circulated the claim that three tennis players — Nikoloz Basilashvili, Dalila Jakupovic, and Nick Kyrgios — were forced to drop out of the tournament due to breathing problems, which some reporting implied was because they had received Covid-19 vaccines.

A story published on January 10 by Free West Media, for example, claimed that Jakupovic was “forced to retire from her match after having dropped to the ground.” These claims were then picked up by users on Twitter.

Facts First: The claims that these three players dropped out of the Australian Open are false. Jakupovic never even entered the tournament, while Basilashvili and Kyrgios were eliminated by opponents. The Free West Media article used a quote about Jakupovic falling to her knees at a match in Australia in January 2020 — before Covid-19 had even been declared a pandemic and well before vaccines were even available. It was pulled from news coverage of an incident that occurred while she was competing in the qualifying rounds of the 2020 Australian Open. While playing in poor air quality due to smoke from bush fires, Jakupovic fell to her knees on the court.

Basilashvili was defeated by Andy Murray in a January 12 match, and Kyrgios lost to Daniil Medvedev on January 20. Both of their losses came days after the Free West Media article claimed they had dropped out of the Open.

While Basilashvili suffered some breathing problems at a January 5 ATP Cup match in Sydney, and Kyrgios received a positive Covid-19 test a week prior to the Open, there is no basis for the suggestion that vaccines contributed to their respiratory difficulties.

Free West Media did not respond to a request for comment.

This claim was previously fact-checked by The Dispatch.

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