In response to the record high temperatures in Europe and elsewhere around the world this summer, social media users accused the European Space Agency (ESA) of having modified its measurement methods to achieve the striking results. They claimed that the agency was now measuring the land surface temperature, which is higher than air temperature. However, this is a misinterpretation of an ESA article about the heatwave. The institution has not made changes to its methodology and had in fact already published land surface temperature data in the past. What’s more, the ESA is not responsible for validating temperature records. That is the role of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which uses other measurements that it receives from weather stations.
The European Union is taking steps to encourage the sustainable production of paper, but it is not proposing to ban toilet paper. False claims circulated in Polish in August 2023 that the EU is planning to phase out toilet paper, first by replacing it with a product made from straw, and then by banning it altogether. However, a European Commission spokesperson confirmed to AFP that the EU has “no intention of banning toilet paper”. AFP could find no such announcement of any ban and paper industry representatives said they were not aware of any such move. While toilet paper made from straw instead of wood pulp is now on the market, there is no move to force EU countries to use it or ban other types.
A photomontage claiming to be a recruitment poster for the Polish army has been circulating on social media in several languages, including in Polish. It says that “Poland is the shield of Europe” and uses an image of Yevgeny Prigozhin — the late leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner — to invite Poles to “protect Europe from Russia’s folly”. But AFP was able to locate the original photo, which in fact shows a bank advertisement on a tram stop in the southern Polish city of Krakow. Poland’s defence ministry, the city’s public transportation authority and the advertising company involved all denied the existence of a Prigozhin recruitment poster.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that cost millions of lives, the World Health Organisation pledged to come up with a plan to ensure a better response to future outbreaks of disease. It is due to be submitted to the World Health Assembly in 2024. As the plan is being drafted, it has been misrepresented on social media. For example, a Croatian MEP claimed in July 2023 that the plan would force countries to surrender their authority on vaccination to the WHO. As a result, he alleged, their citizens would be required to have many more vaccines. But such allegations are false and misleading. Countries are still in charge of their pandemic response and the plan only aims to improve international cooperation, experts told AFP.
A German blog post shared on social media in June 2023 claimed that Sweden had withdrawn from the European Green Deal. While it is true that Sweden’s new conservative government — known for its pro-nuclear stance — recently changed the national electricity mix target, it has not however announced that it was quitting the Green Deal, the Swedish finance ministry and the European Commission told AFP.