Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas
The Battle Over Fake News

How Fake News Is Built

To make a falsified image go viral, Internet users deploy digital smoke and mirrors.
Stamp used by Voz das Comunidades news outlet to highlight misinformation. Voz Das Comunidades app

This article is adapted from AQ’s special report on the battle over fake news

If the photo on our cover of Pope Francis and former Bolivian President Evo Morales sharing a joint looks almost real, it’s because its creators used real photos, changing just one detail.

Fact-checking agency Aos Fatos helped Brazilians figure out how this meme was put together.

Pope Francis sends a kiss as he arrives for his general audience at St Peter’s square on December 11, 2013 at the Vatican.
Bolivia’s former President Evo Morales celebrating the tradition of coca leaf chewing in La Paz in 2013.

The original 2013 photo of Francis, taken in the Vatican, shows him blowing a kiss.

The image of Morales smiling in the background also comes from a 2013 event, but in Bolivia.

The montage originated as a joke post on European social media, but in 2020 it went viral in Brazil. The post was shared thousands of times on social media as supposed evidence that the “excessively modern,” Argentine-born leader of the Catholic Church was connected to “communists” in Latin America.


Tags: The Battle Over Fake News
Like what you've read? Subscribe to AQ for more.
Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Sign up for our free newsletter