“After the Dutch march against climate change and pollution in central Rotterdam, the Netherlands,” reads the photo’s simplified-Chinese caption, shared here on Twitter on June 21.

The photo, which appears to show discarded cans, bottles and plastic bags, has been shared more than 160 times.

It circulated after thousands of people attended a large climate march in Rotterdam, which was covered by local media here, here and here.

The march, which was organised by the Dutch Climate Coalition, took place on June 19 between 1 pm and 5 pm.

Screenshot of the misleading tweet, taken on July 15, 2022

Screenshot of the misleading tweet, taken on July 15, 2022.

The photo was shared alongside a similar claim in Chinese on Twitter and Weibo as well as in Dutch on Facebook

However, the claim is false: the photo was taken in a different city in the Netherlands in a context unrelated to the climate march.

Rubbish outside stadium in Amsterdam

A reverse image search on Google led to similar photos on Twitter here and here, which were posted on June 18 — a day before the climate march.

AFP reached out to one Twitter user who published a photo that shows similar pieces of litter to those seen in the misleading posts. 

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo used in the misleading post (left) and the photo published on Twitter on June 18 (right), with corresponding pieces of litter circled by AFP:

The user @RensKatyCatP told AFP the photo was taken in Amsterdam on June 18 before a concert by American singer Billie Eilish.

They also sent AFP a screenshot of the photo’s metadata, which verified the date and time it was captured:

Screenshot of the metadata attached to the photo provided by @RensKatyCatP, captured on June 23, 2022.

Eilish performed at the Ziggo Dome, which is next to the Johan Cruyff Arena, on June 18.

According to the venue’s website, she was scheduled to perform at 9:15 pm, about two hours after the photo showing the littered street was posted on Twitter.

Details in the photo shared in misleading social media posts also correspond to features around the Johan Cruyff Arena that are visible in Google Street View.

Below is a screenshot comparison of matching features highlighted by AFP, including signposts (yellow), steps (red) and a restaurant sign (blue).

Rotterdam climate march

AFP has previously debunked claims that used photos of litter to discredit climate activists, including here in Canada and here in Australia.

Bram Karst, a spokesperson for the Rotterdam climate march, denied that the photo shared online showed the aftermath of the demonstration.

“This was not the case at all. Those people are there to support the climate, and if something drops by accident, like a protest sign, then it is cleaned up properly,” Karst told AFP on June 21.

Karst also tweeted this photo on June 20 with a caption that says it shows cleaners at the end of the march on June 19.

Clémence Overeem

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