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Viral photo does not show 2021 COVID-19 mandate protest in Austria

A photo of mass demonstrations in Moscow in 1991 is circulating online as “evidence” of large crowds protesting COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates in Austria in November 2021. Let’s take a look at the facts.

A Facebook post of a photo showing a large crowd with the words “We will not comply. The revolution will not be televised! (Austria). You are not alone. #welcome2therevolution.” The News Literacy Project has added a label to this post that says “Moscow 1991.”
This is not a photo of November 2021 protests against new COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates in Austria.
It is a 1991 photo of a much larger estimated crowd of 500,000 protesters outside the Kremlin in Moscow, in the former Soviet Union, demanding that then-President Mikhail Gorbachev and his Communist government step down.
As many as 40,000 people marched through Vienna on Nov. 20 in opposition to a new COVID-19 lockdown measure and a vaccine mandate for adults.
This isn’t the first time this photo has been used out of context to exaggerate the size of protest crowds.

NewsLit takeaway

Photos of large crowds are often used out of context (see 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.

Related: “This video shows football fans marching through an Austrian town in 2019, not an anti-lockdown rally” (AFP Fact Check).

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