Sick: BBC’s fact-checking team have traced false claims of “baby factories” in Ukraine back to a notorious online hoax factory.
“Who would possibly lie about something like that?” you might reasonably ask yourself. Depressingly, we have the answer to that question.
Several Twitter accounts with a blue tick have recently promoted a claim that Russia has discovered “baby factories” in Ukraine.
Children between the ages of two and seven are said to be “factory farmed”, and either sent to “child sex brothels” or to have their organs harvested and sold in the West.
BBC Verify has traced the origin of the claim to an article published in March by The People’s Voice, an alternative name for YourNewsWire, which has been described by fact-checking organisations as one of the biggest producers of fake news on the internet.
It has previously promoted a wide range of false and misleading stories, including anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and false claims about the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas.
The Russian government and Kremlin-controlled media have a history of promoting unsubstantiated claims about illegal organ harvesting in Ukraine.
Hijacking the urge to protect children to produce hatred and justify violence is nothing new.
Old “blood libels” in modern form: These false claims will resonate painfully with Jews around the world – and feel familiar to antisemites. For hundreds of years, Jews were murdered across Europe and the Middle East as a result of blood libels. These are lies claiming that Jews murder and consume the blood of Christian (or Muslim) children for various made-up rites. These rumors persisted despite the fact that religious Jews are strictly forbidden from consuming any blood, in any form.
The “blood libel” refers to a centuries-old false allegation that Jews murder Christians – especially Christian children – to use their blood for ritual purposes, such as an ingredient in the baking of Passover matzah (unleavened bread). It is also sometimes called the “ritual murder charge.” The blood libel dates back to the Middle Ages and has persisted despite Jewish denials and official repudiations by the Catholic Church and many secular authorities. Blood libels have frequently led to mob violence and pogroms, and have occasionally led to the decimation of entire Jewish communities.
Today’s blood libel against Ukrainians – for “farming” babies and children for their organs – just happens to target a country with a Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky. As to whether this is a coincidence, or whether this a case of hoaxers and propagandists using fresh versions of old, proven tools to incite hatred – we’ll let you be the judge.
No, Ukrainians are not “farming” babies for organs or for sex trafficking. These false claims have been traced back to well-known online hoaxers.
Thank you to Shayan Sardarizadeh and the rest of the team at BBC Verify for this reporting.