As with any breaking news event, the tragic Notre-Dame fire, which destroyed the roof of the Parisian cathedral, has been followed by a lot of disinformation. Here is what you should be looking out for.
No, there’s no proof that the fire has been “intentionally set” or “a terrorist attack”
The exact cause of the fire has not been determined yet. The Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation for “involuntary destruction by fire”, as the cathedral was going under renovation works. Investigators, this Tuesday, are favouring the possibility of an accidental fire.
A tweet from Christopher J. Hale, a Time columnist, has enabled the “arson” theory to spread further. “A Jesuit friend in Paris who works in #NotreDame told me cathedral staff said the fire was intentionally set”, he wrote, adding in a second tweet: “I should note that he has zero evidence beyond what the staff said. So qualify this as an unsubstantiated rumor.”
This didn’t keep the conspiracy website InfoWars from publishing an article on the sole basis of this tweet, that has since been deleted.
Other pieces of misleading information have been circulating, claiming that the fire was the consequence of a terrorist attack. In Spain, the website Alerta Digital has published this baseless claim, reports Maldito Bulo.
No, no gas tanks have been found near Notre-Dame on the day of the fire
Many social media accounts are sharing a real article from the Telegraph, headlined: “Gas tanks and Arabic documents found in unmarked car by Paris' Notre-Dame cathedral spark terror fears”. This story is from 2016, and is unrelated to the fire. The Telegraph has added a disclaimer on its article.
There was no man standing next to the fire while it started. It’s a statue.
AFP Factuel has debunked a conspiracy theory involving a picture in which we can see the figure of a person standing next to the fire. This figure is the one of “la Vierge du trumeau du portail du Cloître”, as you can see here:
La photo de gauche circule depuis hier soir, certains laissant entendre que cette personne est à l'origine de l'incendie de Notre-Dame.— AFP Factuel 🔎 (@AfpFactuel) April 16, 2019
Il s'agit en réalité de la Vierge du trumeau du portail du Cloître, la seule grande statue de portail non détruite pendant la Révolution
Yes, this picture of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower is real
Some people have suggested that this picture, published on the Facebook page A.G. Photographie, was a fabricated image. It is not: it’s mostly a matter of perspective and of material, reports Checknews, which published an interview with the photographer. The picture was taken very far from the scene with a tele photo lens.
No, this is not the second time Notre-Dame has been burning
This misleading tweet claims that the cathedral was bombed during the First World War. It has not, and the pictures on the tweet are from the Cathedral of Reims.
Just a reminder if you're not familiar with the history of Notre Dame, but this isn't the first time it's burned. It was shelled during WWI and was restored to its current state before the fire.— 🌻 Mao (@Maolfunction) April 15, 2019
France will do the same again, I'm positive. pic.twitter.com/o1w84PdbxH
There’s no proof that the Notre-Dame fire has any link with past vandalism
From Checknews, 15min and Correctiv - Many people, on social media and in interviews, have been linking the fire with previous acts of vandalism against churches. There indeed has been an arson at the Saint-Sulpice church on March 17, even though the culprit and their motive are still unknown. There was another fire in January in a church in Grenoble. The investigation is still ongoing but the Grenoble prosecutor said there was “95% chances” the fire was accidental, even though an anarchist group claimed they were responsible. There are about two acts of vandalism against churches every day in France, including satanic, neo-nazi, anarchist or Islamist graffitis, according to the ministry of Interior quoted by Checknews.
The baseless link between those acts of vandalism and the Notre-Dame fire has been made, for instance, by Philippe Karsenty, a controversial local politician from Neuilly-sur-Seine’s city council, on Fox News.
A surreal moment on Fox, Shepard Smith has to abruptly end an interview with a French elected official who says about the Notre Dame fire that the "politically correct will try to tell you this is an accident" pic.twitter.com/aUwoH7YVpl— Tyler Monroe (@tylermonroe7) April 15, 2019
No, there was no “lone man in a yellow vest” in one of the Notre-Dame towers
A video of a man walking on the southern tower of Notre-Dame has been circulating along with false claims that he was “a Yellow Vest” or “Muslim”.
#Breaking: Just in - Video is emerging of a #GiletsJaunes in black cloths at one of the the 2 towers half an hour at the start of the fire at the cathédrale Notre-Dame de #Paris. #NotreDame #France. pic.twitter.com/haGSO7VCIB— Sotiri Dimpinoudis ❁ (@sotiridi) April 15, 2019
It actually was a firefighter, as Checknews reports. They were already working in this tower as this CNBC stream, of better quality, shows (starting from 42 min) :
Photo credit: CC-By-SA 4.0/Millipied