These photos have circulated online since at least March 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic
Two photos showing notes scattered on a street have been shared hundreds of times on Facebook and YouTube alongside a claim they were taken in Italy during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The posts claim Italians have thrown money out of their homes in a symbolic gesture to highlight that money is futile during the pandemic. The claim is false; the photos have circulated online since at least March 2019 in reports about two separate incidents in Venezuela.
The photos were published here on Facebook on March 31, 2020. The post has been shared more than 440 times.
Below is a screenshot of the misleading Facebook post:
The caption reads: “In Italy they throw their money on the streets. A clear message to the whole world that money is not enough when health be in danger...??.”
The claim is false
-- First photo --
A reverse image search on Google found the first photo published here on Twitter on April 15, 2019.
The tweet by Steve Hanke, an economist at the US' Johns Hopkins University, states: “Trash fills the street gutters in #socialist #Venezuela. Indeed, this is trash: Venezuelan #Bolivars.”
Venezuela has experienced prolonged hyperinflation since late 2016, that resulted in the release of new banknotes in August 2018. President Nicolas Maduro slashed five zeros off the bolivar currency, in an attempt to halt the spiraling hyperinflation in the country. Here is an AFP report on Venezuela’s currency crisis.
Below is a screenshot comparison of the first photo in the misleading Facebook posts and Hanke’s tweet:
A closer look at the notes on the street also shows they are old Venezuelan currency notes that are no longer in use.
This AFP photo published on the Getty Images website shows a close-up of the 'bolivar fuerte' (VEF) note released in 2008, and scrapped in 2018.
Below is a screenshot comparison of the AFP photo and the photo in the misleading Facebook posts, with the corresponding notes highlighted with a red arrow by AFP.
-- Second photo --
A separate Google reverse image search of the second photo in the misleading post found this tweet by Segovia Bastidas, a journalist for the Venezuelan news outlet Septima Jornada, dated March 12.
#AHORA— Segovia Bastidas (@SegoviaBastidas) March 11, 2019
Vandalizaron el Banco Bicentenario de la Av. 3 en Ciudad de #Mérida y esparcieron en la calle billetes del cono monetario viejo. Ya el estado cumple 4 días #SinLuz.@ReporteYa pic.twitter.com/OC6xnTgidX
Below is a screenshot comparison of the second photo in the misleading Facebook post and Bastidas’ tweet:
The robbery at Banco Bicentenario was also reported by other local and international media, including the news website Descifra Guerra here and and by Nellie Belen Izarza, a journalist for the US-based PrensaLibre Maryland newspaper here.
The misleading claims were also denied by Stefano Pontecorvo, the former Italian ambassador to Pakistan, in this tweet published March 31, 2020.
This is FAKE NEWS. It is a picture of Venezuela when they threw away the banknotes of old currency no longer in use. Let's stop this bs. Italians are using their money to help in the struggle against #coronavirus . This post is simply stupid. With a PhD check your sources.... https://t.co/4YHNJQ8hOa— Stefano Pontecorvo (@pontecorvoste) March 31, 2020
It reads: “This is FAKE NEWS. It is a picture of Venezuela when they threw away the banknotes of old currency no longer in use. Let's stop this bs. Italians are using their money to help in the struggle against #coronavirus . This post is simply stupid. With a PhD check your sources....”.