Certain circles on social media were abuzz with the story of a man said to be an “African migrant” who reached the United States by clinging on to the wing of an airplane. But of course, this crazy story isn’t true: these images were digitally altered or taken out of their original context.
The posts that were most widely shared (one of which was shared more than 9,000 times on Facebook) include several different photos of a black man who isn’t wearing a shirt. In one, he is standing on the tarmac, on another he is standing on the wing of a stationary aeroplane. In a third, he is on the wing of an aeroplane, mid-flight.
There is a similar caption on almost all of these posts: “African migrant gets to USA by hanging onto an aeroplane wing.” A video that was also widely circulated shows this man being arrested by the police after supposedly arriving in the United States.
Tweet (translated from French): AN AFRICAN MIGRANT ARRIVES IN THE USA BY CLINGING ONTO AN AIRPLANE WING
Several different French-language websites, including LeMagAfrik and FaireEcho, presented this story as fact, though they didn’t cite any sources.
Did a migrant really reach the United States by clinging on to the wing of an aeroplane?
It turns out that most of these other sites were fooled by the French parody news website 24jours.com, which was the first site to include these photos in an “article”. However, the website clearly states in its “About” section that its content is not to be taken seriously:
[Translated from French]: This site does not provide medical advice and the information obtained from our site is purely meant for entertainment.
As many readers noticed, the website digitally altered one of the images. If you look closely, the man is in the exact same position in the photo when the aeroplane is in flight and the photo when it is grounded.
Real photos from the United States – but taken out of context
Except for the digitally altered image of the man mid-flight, all of the images are real. However, all of them were taken out of context.
Using a simple reverse image search (click here to find out how to do it), you can locate these photos on an American news website that explains the photos were taken during an incident in Atlanta, Georgia on June 26, 2018.
In this article by the Reuters news agency, you can see the same video (click on the photo to see the article).
For no apparent reason, a 19-year-old man managed to climb a fence and get onto the airport runway. He then climbed on an aeroplane that had just landed after flying in from Miami.
The man was fined $18,000 (equivalent to €15,350) for trespassing on a runway, for public indecency and for damaging material belonging to the airport.
Unscrupulous websites looking to garner clicks often publish sensational stories about migrants. Last March, several websites shared a ridiculous story about a Malian migrant who became a millionaire after marrying a rich Swiss heiress… but the story was completely false.
To find out more about how to verify photos that you may come across online, check out our verification guide!