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By Patrick Orsagos June 22, 2020

Obama Foundation didn’t post image of George Floyd protest sign before he died

If Your Time is short

  • A Facebook post claims that the Obama Foundation tweeted a photo of a sign at a George Floyd protest before his death occurred. 

  • The photo is actually a preview image that acts as a link to Obama.org and is updated automatically and retroactively as the website is updated.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, a Facebook post questions why a tweet from the Obama Foundation, posted before he died on May 25, displays a protest sign with Floyd’s image on it. 

The June 7 Facebook post is a screenshot of a tweet, dated May 16, congratulating the graduating class of 2020. The tweet says, "#GraduateTogether #Classof2020, are you ready to lead in your community? Join us at obama.org." 

"This picture is from the Obama Foundation. It was posted May 16th, 2020," the Facebook post says. "George Floyd was killed May 25th, 2020. Why was The Obama Foundation posting this picture of George Floyd before he died?"

A spokesperson for the Obama Foundation told PolitiFact that the photo with the George Floyd protest sign was a preview image for the foundation’s website, obama.org. The photo was taken May 30 and first used on the site on May 31, according to the spokesperson. 

How could this photo be attached to a tweet posted before Floyd’s death? To understand that, it helps to know how Twitter handles the images that appear with some tweets.

Twitter allows certain certified account holders to designate a preset image, called a card, to appear automatically with tweets that include a link to the website associated with their accounts. According to Twitter Developer, Twitter’s computers scour sites on the Internet every week or so to check for updates to these designated images. When those computers recognize a change from a site’s owner, Twitter updates the image on all the tweets linking to that site — including past ones. 

Featured Fact-check

The protest image appeared on obama.org, without a photo credit, on May 31 with an Obama Foundation press release about organizations that are working to end systemic racism and police brutality in the United States. (A reverse-image search didn’t turn up any earlier appearances of the photo on the Internet.) When the foundation designated that image as its card for obama.org, the image began to appear on Twitter with its earlier tweets also.

It’s similar to the way, say, Facebook shows a user’s current profile picture with a post. When users change their profile pictures, the new one appears alongside future posts, and past ones.

But unlike Twitter, Facebook doesn’t retroactively apply the preset images that are associated with websites. So, any Facebook post from mid-May that includes a link to the Obama Foundation’s website would continue to show whatever image was set as the site’s card at that time.

Our ruling 

A Facebook post claims that a tweet from the Obama Foundation appears with a photo from a George Floyd protest before Floyd’s death. 

The photo was not part of the tweet when it was posted. It was a preview image associated with the Obama Foundation website that Twitter applied retroactively to tweets linking to obama.org. 

We rate this statement False. 

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Obama Foundation didn’t post image of George Floyd protest sign before he died

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