Sometimes it is a long and complicated process to debunk a fake video that’s been circulating online. Sometimes, it’s obvious that the video is fake. But sometimes, even if a video is obviously fake, it keeps getting shared all the same. That’s the case for this grainy video of a poorly choreographed fight scene that recently resurfaced and has been shared online across Europe, together with anti-migrant sentiments.
An Observer first sent us this video on February 5. The video was uploaded to YouTube with a title in French that read “Migrants desperate for sex get beat up 6 against 1, LOL”. The video was deleted just before this article was published.
The footage is meant to look like it was shot live. However, there are several aspects that don't line up. First of all, the cameraman seems to be filming while waiting for something to happen. In the middle of his shot, a couple poses to take a photo together. Two men approach the couple and one reaches out and touches her hair. Her boyfriend angrily tries to push him away.
The fight scene that follows could actually make the fights in the most low-budget kung-fu film look good. The men fake punch and kick each other as the crowd gasps and screams. In the middle of the brawl, two other men jump in to defend the would-be aggressors. After a few action-packed minutes, the four aggressors end up on the ground, pretending to be knocked out.
Circulating since 2011
The video isn’t new, it’s been posted many times since 2011, sometimes garnering several hundred thousand views. Its title and caption has been written and re-written in Somali, English, Russian and Chinese: and, each time, the video is said to show something different. Once its caption said it was “a Russian defending his girlfriend from four black men”. Another time, the title mentioned a Cantonese transnational crime organisation. The captions on the most recent versions of the video, which have mostly been shared by Europeans, say that the footage shows a German man defending his wife against harassment from migrants.
Same scene, different angle: a kung-fu demo in Shanghai
When we searched online, we found another video showing the same scene, but shot at a different angle. In this version, you can see the Shanghai Museum in the background, meaning that the video was filmed in the People’s Square in Shanghai, China.
You can also see that this fight is a performance, nothing more. With help from our Observers in China, we found photos of the couple that star in the video. The man’s name is Hu Haoming and he’s a kung-fu professor. His partner is the blonde woman who also appears in the staged fight. The photo below shows them in the studio where they train.
Some social media users, who weren’t convinced by the bad choreography, commented that it was the most boring fake fight they had ever seen. Other less-perceptive viewers, however, believed the video and shared a racist reading. Most comments on the video highlighted the skin colour of the aggressors. In the comments posted in February 2016 and later erased, some people wrote that these “migrants” had “gotten what they deserved”.
Some of the most recent comments even mentioned the so-called “grand replacement” conspiracy theory. It’s a theory championed by some members of the extreme right, who think there is an international conspiracy to replace the France’s European population with people from North and sub-Saharan Africa.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees arrived in Europe in 2015. In this politically contentious context, social media is full of fake information planted and shared by individuals with anti-migrant sentiments.
This deliberate misinformation is also sometimes shared by the mainstream media.