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Emily Venezky
By Emily Venezky February 28, 2020

No, the coronavirus disease was not used as a weapon in a robbery

If Your Time is short

  • This screenshot of “breaking news” is originally from a satirical news site. If you look closely, you’ll see a  news generator watermark in the top right corner, meaning the image was created.

The most recent piece of misinformation being spread about the coronavirus disease 2019, also called COVID-19, is that it can be used as a unique robbery weapon.

A Facebook post uploaded on Feb. 26, 2020, includes a screenshot of a news story with the headline: "Corona virus: Florida man arrested for robbery using cough as a weapon." The live news alert’s background photo is a man of Asian descent with the quote "if you call the police I will cough" in front of him.

This post was flagged by Facebook as part of efforts to combat false news and information on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

This a screenshot from a satirical news website and the news format of the image is from a breaking news generator that anyone can use. 

The website that generated this image says it is a satirical news website and has a link for readers to submit their own satirical news stories. It posted the "live news" image on Feb. 23, 2020. 

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This breaking news image was made on The font and formatting of this screenshot are identical to the breaking news generator. There is also a watermark in the top right corner of the image.

The image of an Asian man to symbolize a robber using coronavirus feeds into stereotypes about who has the illness. According to the CDC’s COVID-19 FAQ page, "fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma, for example, towards Chinese or other Asian Americans." The CDC said that this "hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem." 

The CDC’s advice: "Communicating the facts that viruses do not target specific racial or ethnic groups and how COVID-19 actually spreads." The CDC also includes a breakdown of all the ways COVID-19 can be spread on their website.

This screenshot of "breaking news" is fake. It was originally from a satirical news site and has an obvious news generator watermark in the top right corner. It then got spun around the internet in a way that would fool people. We rate this post Pants On Fire!

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No, the coronavirus disease was not used as a weapon in a robbery

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