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Viral images of huge Netherlands protests do not show opposition to COVID-19 regulations

A photo and video clip of a Jan. 15 protest against expanded gas extraction in the Netherlands are being used out of context online to exaggerate the level of opposition to COVID-19 regulations in the country. Let’s take a look at the facts.

A tweet that says “Tens of thousands of free people protested against the new police state in Netherlands.” The tweet also includes a photo of a large crowd in a plaza. The News Literacy Project added a label that says “PROTEST AGAINST GAS EXTRACTION.”
The photo in this tweet does not show crowds protesting COVID-19 regulations in the Netherlands.
It shows protests opposing government plans to increase gas production in the Groningen gas field, possibly doubling its output.
Video of the Jan. 15 Groningen gas protest also circulated out of context with the same false claim.
Thousands of people gathered in Amsterdam on Jan. 16 in a separate protest against COVID-19 regulations.

NewsLit takeaway

Photos of large crowds are often used out of context (see here, here, here, here and here) to exaggerate the public’s response to a given news event or cause. In fact, this is such a common tactic that it has become a satirical misinformation meme online. Similar to astroturfing campaigns, these tricks of context distort perceptions of public sentiment in an effort to manipulate others.

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