A picture of a supposed British military convoy – notice that the vehicles are driving on the right-hand side of the road Remember those panicky viral messages you were forwarded on WhatsApp at the start of the pandemic?
They may have come as a text, voice note or blurry picture forwarded by a "friend of a friend" – and most of them were scarcely credible. Here’s the truth behind a few of the most heart-stopping coronavirus rumours that we debunked at the time. 1. Tanks never arrived on the streets
What did the message say? In the middle of March, grainy pictures of military vehicles on highways began cropping up in WhatsApp chats and Facebook groups. They had captions like "On the M25!" and "Tanks expected in Newcastle tomorrow". They were shared with warnings about mass civil unrest that would, ostensibly, prompt a military crackdown.
How viral was it? The biggest platform for these rumours was WhatsApp. Because it’s private and encrypted, it’s impossible to know exactly how many people saw such messages – but we can conservatively estimate they were received by tens of thousands. Weeks later, people who run local Facebook groups told the BBC that they were still seeing mentions of alleged military plans for tanks on the streets. WhatsApp messages spread other false claims about the army taking to the streets and police patrols outside supermarkets How did we debunk it? This was initially difficult to tackle. We knew there were no tanks rolling along high streets. But we also knew the army might be deployed. And it’s not uncommon to see military vehicles on […]