Screenshot of a video by Europe 1 in which a man appears to surrender while the hostage situation is still ongoing.

 
The internet has been awash with conspiracy theories since last week's unprecedented attacks in Paris. Conspiracy theorists claim that the truth has been hidden, that the powers-that-be are orchestrating everything from up above. Some of their arguments may appear logical at first glance, but upon closer analysis they turn out to be entirely false.

A few hours after the first amateur images of the 'Charlie Hebdo' attacks were broadcast by news channels, conspiracy theories were already swirling online. The pictures below sent to FRANCE 24 are just one example.

Image sent to FRANCE 24 that supposedly 'proves' that the attacks are part of a conspiracy theory.
 
Bizarre bullet-proof vests? No.

Several internet users ask why 'survivors' of the massacre are filmed wearing bullet-proof vests on the roof of the 'Charlie Hebdo' offices. But it’s not surprising considering that the building is also the home of the press agency 'Premieres Lignes'. And like most agencies that work in conflict zones, the outlet makes bullet-proof vests available to its staff. Its employees had the reflex to put them on after hearing the first shots ring out.
 
Different coloured rear-view mirrors? Again, no. 

This detail - while minor - has also got the internet abuzz: the rear-view mirrors of the attackers' car. Several people managed to film the Kouachi brothers making their escape in a black Citroen C3, “Selection” model.


The photo above shows the car and the two brothers just before they kill a helpless policeman in cold blood. The wing mirrors appear to be a clear, light colour. The photo below shows the Citroen in the 19th arrondissement, the two brothers having abandoned it to make their getaway in another car. Yet here the wing mirrors appear black. So what's the reason for the difference? It's actually quite simple: the mirrors on this car model are in fact chrome-plated. That means that their colour appears to change depending on the light being reflected. To prove it, look at these two photos showing the car in the same area: In each photo the mirrors' colour appears different.
 

A (not-so) mysterious 'accomplice' during the attack at Porte de Vincennes

On the evening of the attack against the supermarket at Porte de Vincennes, a witness is interviewed by French television channel iTele. He claims to have seen a person surrender just after the first exchange of fire, even though the hostage-taking situation was still ongoing. At the same time, Europe 1 – a popular French radio network – broadcast these imagesof the man surrendering. He can be seen walking near the shop with his hands in the air, before being accosted by police. The whole scene is filmed by an employee of a service station who said he believed the man was armed.
 
Screen shot of a video in which a man appears to surrender while the hostage situation is still ongoing.
 
Questions surrounding his identity are quickly overshadowed by the unfolding events. Yet conspiracy theorists are quick to point to this mystery man – and the fact that the media make virtually no mention of him – as proof that something is amiss.
 
Lassana filmed by BFM TV, a French news channel, the day of the attack.
 
It turns out that this so-called 'accomplice' is none other than Lassana Bathily, the shop's Malian employee whose story made headlines in the aftermath of the hostage-taking. And he's certainly no accomplice. Bathily had the quick reflex to hide several hostages in the shop's cold-storage room as soon as the hostage-taking drama began playing out. He suggested to his fellow hostages that they leave the store with him, but they refused. So he decided to leave by the store's emergency exit with his hands held in the air. The clothes he's wearing on the video match photos taken of him in the aftermath of the ordeal.
 
No, Coulibaly was not shot while handcuffed

Screen shot of the video below.

These images were broadcast by France 3 – a major French television channel – during peak viewing time. Despite that, they're presented by paranoid internet users as being the 'non-censured' footage of the police raid on the supermarket. It shows the moment when Amedy Coulibaly runs out of the shop to confront the dozens of armed officers lined against him.
 
France 3 video uploaded online by the site Infolibre TV.
 
A few seconds after the raid is launched, the video shows Coulibaly heading towards the door behind which heavily armed officers have lined up. Perhaps reacting to a sound grenade, he appears to crash into the door and fall to the ground. A few seconds later, Coulibaly is dead. But what's intriguing is the position his hands are in the moment he falls. Internet users claim he appears handcuffed.
 
But it's little more than coincidence that his arms find themselves in this position. Spliced, these pictures show that he spreads his arms apart as he tumbles to the ground. Furthermore, several American media outlets have published screen shots of surveillance camera footage from inside the store, in which Coulibaly can be seen holding a gun in his right hand. He is not handcuffed. 


 
'Revealing' dates and obvious photomontages

Some internet users have also taken it upon themselves to manipulate older photos. This photo supposedly shows Place de la Republique during Sunday's solidarity march. It gives the impression that the statue has been covered with Palestinian flags. Unsurprisingly, the photo was actually taken during a protest in support of Gaza during July 2014.
 

Others don't even bother to analyse the images to come up with their conspiracy theories. For them, the dates of the attacks speak for themselves and could even reveal the culprit's name. A ridiculous conclusion which was nevertheless retweeted 3,500 times.
 
This tweet reads: "9/11 = 911 = American police's phone number ... 1/7 = 17 = French police's phone number. That's weird"

Whereas some internet users naively repost these arguments, others have resorted to conspiracy theories like this for years in an attempt to support the well-worn theory that pins the blame on the United States and Israel. Supposedly, the goal of these two allies is to dirty Islam's image.

Seventeen people were killed in last week's events which were without precedent on French soil. The attacks led by the Kouachi brothers against 'Charlie Hebdo' was claimed by Al Qaeda in Yemen and had been well-prepared in advance. Coulibaly claims to have carried out his own – more haphazard – attacks in the name of the Islamic State group. Hayat Boumedienne, believed to have acted as Coulibaly's accomplice, is on the run and thought to have fled to Syria.


Post written with France 24 journalist Ségolène Malterre (@segoF24).