(Editor's note: this article is first published at Annie Lab, a fact-checking project by Journalism and Media Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong and Asian Network of News and Information Educators (ANNIE), and was written by Audrey Ng and Ananta Agarwal.)
Multiple social media posts imply Swedish climate activist Thunberg has gained weight. However, they are digitally manipulated. Her face appears much smaller in the original photos.
On April 19, a post on Facebook with a collage of three photos of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg claimed she has gained weight over the years.
The Chinese post reads, “Working in environment protection makes it easy to earn? A Japanese netizen found the environment-protecting girl already turning into Pompeo,” referring to Mike Pompeo, former U.S. Secretary of State.
The post has gained more than 1,000 interactions, 145 shares and 200 comments at the time of writing.
A flipped version of the image on the right was posted on an online art community called DeviantArt. The image was published on the platform in February 2020, the earliest Annie Lab can find.
However, the image that purportedly shows her putting on weight is digitally manipulated.
Thunberg’s chin area was exaggerated to make her face appear much bigger than it is in the real news photo taken in 2019 found on Getty Image’s website.
Annie Lab compared the original photo with the manipulated image in the GIF below.
A similar claim featuring the image in question is found on Twitter, for example, in Japanese that has gained 1,935 likes, 473 retweets and 171 comments.
Another similar post on Weibo gained more than 2,200 likes, 460 comments and 104 shares. It also reiterated the false claim that Thunberg “once asked Chinese people not to use chopsticks,” which has been debunked by Reuters. The false claim was also accompanied by another altered image (seen below).
This version of the manipulated image of Thunberg appeared in many other social media posts as well.
In his Wikimedia Commons user page, Ainali says he was an employee at the European Parliament at the time he filmed the video of Thunberg.
Below is a recent photo of Thunberg uploaded on April 16 on her official Twitter account.
Thunberg has been a frequent target of disinformation around the world. She has appeared on multiple public forums, including the U.N. General Assembly, to raise awareness about climate change.
The disinformation targeting Thunberg increased after Japan announced its plan to release contaminated water from the ruined Fukushima nuclear power plant back into the ocean.
Some netizens in China are angry that Thunberg, usually a vocal critic of government policies that are detrimental to the environment, did not explicitly condemned Japan’s move.
Meanwhile, some Japanese netizens seem to have regarded Thunberg’s retweet as a sign of her disapproval.