As a caravan of Central Americans makes its way north, President Donald Trump, news outlets, and others have used words like infiltrate, invasion, and the word ISIS to stoke fear about the immigrants fleeing poverty and crime in their homelands. These depictions are unfair and particularly dangerous as they shade the general public’s opinion of the thousands making the perilous journey. What’s more frustrating is that some of those spreading this misinformation have sizable platforms. Recently Ginni Thomas – a special correspondent at The Daily Caller News and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife – used her Facebook account to insinuate that those in the caravan are violent.
Accompanying a gruesome picture of a bloodied Mexican official in riot gear, she wrote, “The media won’t share THIS, will they? It is an invasion, and thank GOD for President Trump.” An earlier version of the post read, “And WE are supposed to believe these are just poor, helpless refugees seeking asylum?? I am 100% behind POTUS deploying our military to protect our border and keep them out.”
The image and her comment insinuates that one man’s bloody face is the result of an attack from Central American immigrants. But the truth is that it’s Central Americans who are most vulnerable; the caravan is a direct response to the dangers they face while traveling north. Traveling in big numbers affords them some safety.
Additionally, the image Thomas shared is actually six years old, according to The Washington Post. It comes from a student protest in the country in 2012. Though Thomas isn’t the first to attribute the picture to the caravan, she is a prominent voice and her sharing this image is irresponsible.
Of course, she’s not alone in making the photo go viral. Facebook, which has not successfully contained the spread of false stories, has also received criticism. In a Medium post, Trevor Davis, a researcher and professor at George Washington University, wrote, “Why is Facebook allowing this to continue to be shared? It is false. It’s a DMCA violation — the photo is an editorial image owned by Getty Images being used out of context without license.”
Since then, the social media network has spoken out and said it has the situation under control. “In this situation, while it’s something we should have caught sooner, we were able to identify and address duplicate versions of this photo that were being shared elsewhere on Facebook; thanks to a ‘false’ rating from one of our third-party fact-checkers on this photo, we’ve been able to demote these duplicate posts in News Feed,” the company said, according to The Washington Post.