Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović was in the president's box at Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, on Wednesday July 11 to watch her country storm to victory over England in the World Cup semi-final. Sporting a football shirt, her wide smile of triumph was beamed to TVs around the world. And some internet-users took the opportunity to share photos that are supposed to show the president in very skimpy clothing – but are actually photos of someone else.
Posts on Facebook and Twitter crown the president with the title of sexiest world leader, attaching photos that show her wearing a bikini on a beach. Writing her name in Google brings up pages of images purporting to show her in bikinis that leave little to the imagination. However, all of the photos are false.
Croatia's president in a bikini?
This series of photos is the most popular. They show a woman wearing a floral bikini that barely covers her breasts.
The woman in the photo is actually Coco Austin, an American model and the partner of the rapper Ice-T. Although lots of articles falsely identify the woman as Grabar-Kitarović, others do correctly identify her as Austin. It's easy to verify just by looking for pictures of Austin – and you'll see that it's the same person.
It's the same for this photo: a Google reverse image search shows that the woman is definitely Coco Austin.
Another photo going around shows this woman in a blue bikini. Although it looks more like Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović then the photos of Coco Austin did, it's still not her.
In this case, Google reverse image search wasn't much help: when the image is entered in the search engine, almost all of the results say that the photo shows the Croatian president. A lot of the posts date from July 2018, which signals that the fake news started to be shared after Croatia's triumph in their World Cup semi-final match.
So how to work out where the photo comes from? What our journalists did was to use Google Translate to write 'fake photo Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović' in Croatian. From there, we used the phrase to do a normal Google search, where we found a Croatian website that had actually analysed this photo before the World Cup and the spread of the fake news. The photo actually comes from an image gallery on a porn site.
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, 50, has had to deal with this kind of fake news and false identification since her election in January 2015. According to British tabloid newspaper The Sun, the day after her election, a Serbian tabloid published photos of a woman they said was her, and falsely stated that she had previously acted in a porn film. Of course, the photos weren't of Grabar-Kitarović at all, but of a porn actress, Diamond Foxx.