Viral photo of a stolen police car in France, actually from a Netflix movie

An image has gone viral on social media platforms including Twitter showing a stolen police car said to be from the unrest currently taking place in France. And although it is seen by millions of people, the picture is not real. It’s a screenshot from a 2022 Netflix film.

The image was shared by multiple accounts with “verified” blue ticks, including Proud army brat, Humanity taken out of context And Economista Sincero, a total of over 9 million views. But since Elon Musk bought Twitter in October 2022, the social media platform no longer verifies users. Anyone who can spend $8 per month can get the blue tick.

A Twitter account wrote that the image showed “Middle Eastern immigrants” in France being greeted as “peaceful” – and put the word in chilling quotation marks.

“In the meantime, riots have started in Italy, Belgium and Great Britain. THIS gets here when people don’t shake up TF with the harm of a totally OPEN BORDER!” US-based account continued.

In reality, the image is from a clip of the 2022 French film Athena. As you can see from the YouTube video below at around 1:20 minutes, the footage was not taken during the current unrest in France. And anyone with Netflix can watch the full-length film today.

France is currently grappling with social unrest after cell phone videos emerged Tuesday of a police officer killing a teenager at a traffic stop. The 17-year-old, identified only as Nahel, is of Algerian descent and his killing has sparked widespread anger in France’s immigrant communities.

Riots have erupted over the past five days and Nahel’s grandmother has called for an end to the violence, according to a new report from Reuters. A crowdfunding campaign for the police officer who killed the teenager has reportedly raised over €670,000, or around $730,000.

A number of fake photos and videos purporting to show violence in France have gone viral in recent days, including a video purporting to show a “sniper”. But as I explained on Saturday, this sniper video is actually a joke from March about the Call of Duty video game.

It’s always interesting to see how fake photos and videos go viral during times of civil unrest, because it’s unclear what the motives of the people sharing these images are. The chaos caused by the riots over the past five nights is well documented and there are many real photographs showing buildings on fire and clashes with police.

But I expect popular filmmakers will inherently create images that are more interesting to look at, even when the real world is on fire. That still doesn’t answer the question of why they are spreading fake pictures. Yes, some nation-states have long been actively involved in misinformation campaigns to sow discord or influence public opinion. But some people just aren’t very smart and have a much bigger audience than they probably should given their reach.

I have no inside knowledge as to why a Twitter account like Proud Army Brat would share a picture from a movie and claim it was real. But whatever the motivation, it’s dead wrong.

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