Fact Check: Doctored Image Of Paraglider Dummies At Columbia University Is NOT Authentic -- It Was Digitally Altered

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Doctored Image Of Paraglider Dummies At Columbia University Is NOT Authentic -- It Was Digitally Altered Emojis

Does a photo show that students in the pro-Palestinian encampment at Columbia University installed inflatable dummies of paragliders, referencing one method that Hamas reportedly used during the October 7, 2023, attack on Israel? No, that's not true: What could have been mistaken for two dummies in a low-quality picture on social media were emojis, not authentic objects. Photos of the campus that appeared in news reports on the same day did not show anything similar. The user who published the altered image subsequently posted that the image was fake.

The story appeared in a post (archived here) on X, formerly known as Twitter, where it was published on April 17, 2024. It opened:

Did Columbia students use dummies of paragliders as decor in their Gaza solidarity camp? If you don't know, some Hamas terrorists reportedly used paragliders to fly over fence and commit Oct 7 massacre that killed 1200 Israelis. What next? A giant mural of Hamas chief Sinwar, with hearts and "we love you?"

This is what the post looked like on X at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2024-04-29 at 10.38.14 AM.png

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Mon Apr 29 14:38:14 2024 UTC)

The shared image showed the left side of the South Lawn on the Columbia University Morningside campus (archived here) in New York City. It was the site of the first encampment that was dispersed by NYPD officers (archived here) on April 18, 2024. When students later reestablished the camp, it moved to the right side of the same lawn.

The post implied that the protesters expressed support for Hamas by displaying the dummies of paragliders used, among other means, to attack Israel on October 7, 2023 (archived here).

However, the photo was manipulated.

A reverse image search shows that no paragliders were present in similar photos shot from a slightly different angle and published on the same day as the claim that is the focus of this fact check. Some examples can be seen here, here and here (the last link is archived here).

The "dummies" were parachute emojis (archived here) available on Apple devices since 2019: Screen Shot 2024-04-29 at 11.07.53 AM.png

(Sources: Messages screenshots taken on Mon Apr 29 between 15:03:25 UTC and 15:04:05 UTC 2024)

The account whose post is the focus of this fact check wrote (archived here) on the next day, April 18, 2024, referring to the image in question:

The picture was fake.

A keywords search (archived here) of the Google News archive of thousands of reliable information sites showed other fact checks of the same claim.

Other Lead Stories fact checks about the Hamas-Israel war can be found here.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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