View this email in your browser
Friday, July 9, 2021
Edited by Ellen McCutchan with thanks to Ellen Blake
This newsletter draws on our own resources and those of our colleagues within the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), of which RMIT ABC Fact Check is a member.

Good morning,

In this week's edition of CoronaCheck, we check in with repeat misinformation peddler Clive Palmer, whose pamphlets about COVID-19 vaccines are riddled with falsehoods.

We also look at what's happening in the US, where a new social media platform launched by an affiliate of former president Donald Trump has been flooded with misinformation.

Clive Palmer peddles misinformation … again

ABC News

Businessman and former federal MP Clive Palmer has distributed flyers throughout Australia urging people against getting a COVID-19 vaccination as part of a campaign labelled by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) as "misleading" and "posing a threat".

Among Mr Palmer's many claims are those that have previously been debunked by RMIT ABC Fact Check, including that 210 Australians died due to coronavirus vaccines.

Fact Check reported that Mr Palmer had misrepresented data from a TGA report showing that while 210 Australians had died following their vaccinations, the cause of death for all but one was found to be unrelated to the vaccine.

Another claim featured in the flyer suggests that animal trials of prospective COVID-19 vaccines had led to "50 per cent of animals" dying.

Similar claims have been shared widely online after a Texas state senator promoted the furphy during a hearing on mandatory coronavirus vaccinations in May.

According to the Republican state lawmaker, Bob Hall, vaccine trials in the US had skipped the animal testing phase due to widespread deaths among animals in the program.

But this claim has been widely debunked by fact checkers at Health FeedbackAP and Reuters.

"All three COVID-19 vaccines authorised for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration were tested in animals and in clinical trials on humans before receiving authorisation," Health Feedback concluded.

As for Mr Palmer's claim that 50 per cent of animals involved in trials for the COVID-19 vaccines now available in Australia had died, Fact Check could find no evidence to support the assertion.

A spokeswoman for AstraZeneca told Fact Check that Mr Palmer's claims did not align with the results of the company's vaccine trials.

"All clinical trials for the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine were conducted overseas," her statement read. "Oxford University has confirmed that no animals died during the pre-clinical trials."

In Australia, the TGA requires testing on animals before a vaccine can be registered for use in humans.

"The use of animals in research is a small but vital part of the process of bringing new medicines to patients," the AstraZeneca spokeswoman continued.

"Although advances continue to be made in non-animal alternatives, some animal studies remain necessary to establish the safety and efficacy of new medicines before they reach patients."

In the US, all coronavirus vaccines approved as an emergency vaccine, including Pfizer's vaccine, were tested on animals such as rabbits, mice, rats, hamsters and monkeys.

Moderna and Pfizer were also permitted to test their vaccines on human trial participants concurrently with animal tests.

Chris Magee, the head of policy and media at the UK-based not-for-profit organisation Understanding Animal Research, explained to FullFact that the death of animals in pre-clinical trials for any of the vaccines would have brought the human trials to a halt.

"The fact that they were not [halted] indicates the animals did not die unexpectedly," Mr Magee said.

The latest social media platform is a hotbed of misinformation

A new social media platform launched by a former spokesman for former US president Donald Trump has been inundated with misinformation, just days after its launch.

According to misinformation researchers at First Draft, Gettr, which was officially launched on July 4 but had been already available in beta form for several days, has played host to QAnon-affiliated accounts spreading falsehoods about the November 2020 presidential election.

"Links to debunked videos that purport to show 2020 ballots being manipulated or destroyed in various US states have also been liked nearly 2,000 times on Gettr," First Draft found.

Other election misinformation shared on the platform includes incorrect claims of fraud in Arizona's vote-counting process.

"Previous audits in Arizona have been completed and no problems were uncovered," First Draft reiterated, noting reports by National Public Radio in the US indicating that the latest auditing process ordered up by state Republicans was being run by a company with no prior election experience and led by a CEO who has himself spread election-related misinformation.

The rampant misinformation appearing on the site is hardly surprising, with The Daily Beast reporting that Gettr was being bankrolled by a Chinese billionaire who was recently found by network analysis company Graphika to be behind a massive online disinformation network.

Gizmodo, meanwhile, reported that the site had absolved itself of moderation responsibilities.

"Its terms of service state that Gettr 'may', but, wisely, does [Gizmodo's emphasis], remove content that it deems 'offensive, obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, pornographic, violent, harassing, threatening, abusive, illegal, or otherwise objectionable or inappropriate'."

From Washington D.C.

In a quest to curb violent crime, US President Joe Biden has announced a plan to take on illegal gun dealers and increase funding for local law enforcement.

But fact checkers at the Washington Post and PolitiFact have taken Mr Biden to task on his claim that the US Constitution's second amendment limited the type of person who could own a gun and the type of weapon they could own "from the day it was passed".

"You couldn't buy a cannon," Mr Biden said during a news conference on gun crime prevention.

According to PolitiFact, that claim is wrong.

"The Second Amendment limited government power, not the rights of individuals," the fact checkers concluded.

"Laws at the time that limited firearm ownership were primarily racist, aimed at controlling Black people and Native Americans."

David Kopel, a second amendment expert, told the Washington Post's Fact Checker that everything in Mr Biden's statement about the amendment, which was contained in the Bill of Rights adopted in 1791, was wrong.

At that time, there were no federal laws governing the type of firearm a person could own, nor did any states impose such limits.

On whether the second amendment limited a person's right to own a cannon at the time it was introduced, the Washington Post found that special waivers contained in the US Constitution allowed private individuals to "act as pirates on behalf of the United States against countries engaged in war with it".

"The 'letter of marque' allowed a warship to cross into another country's territory to take a ship, while a "'letter of reprisal' gave authorisation to bring the ship back to the home port of the capturer," the fact checkers noted.

"Individuals who were given these waivers and owned warships obviously also obtained cannons for use in battle."

Graphic of the week

With the AstraZeneca vaccine now being made available to any Australian adult who wants it — pending a conversation with their GP — the risk of resulting blood clots has been brought into sharp focus.

This graph, produced using ABS figures and published by The Conversation, shows how the risk of death from blood clotting following an AstraZeneca jab compares to other activities.

Got a fact that needs checking? Tweet us @ABCFactCheck or send us an email at

This newsletter is supported by funding from the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas and the International Fact-Checking Network.
For all our fact checks and fact files in one place, and to receive COVID-19 news alerts, download the ABC News app here.
RMIT ABC Fact Check is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network. We thank other signatories for allowing us to share their work.
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward
Was this email sent to you by a friend? Click here to subscribe.
Copyright © 2021 RMIT FactLab, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.