A photo was manipulated to show young climate activist Greta Thunberg with philanthropist George Soros, who is known for funding progressive causes. The original image was of Thunberg and former vice president Al Gore.
Young climate activist Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old from Sweden, has received considerable attention in recent weeks for her work raising awareness about climate change: She testified before a congressional committee on Sept. 18, spoke at the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23, and became a subject of a tweet by President Donald Trump.
She also has received some unwanted attention from social media users, who have spread a doctored image that shows her with philanthropist George Soros.
The original image appeared on Thunberg’s Instagram in December 2018 and in reality shows Thunberg meeting former vice president Al Gore, a Democrat who is also known for his advocacy against climate change.
The manipulated photo has a small green watermark reading “Secret News” — which we found is an online French satirical website. The website published the edited photo in an Aug. 28 story that falsely claimed Thunberg was Soros’ granddaughter.
But the photo circulated on social media with no indication of satirical intent, and users made comments suggesting that Thunberg is “scripted” or that Soros is “paying” Thunberg. The billionaire philanthropist, known for funding liberal causes, has become a staple target of conspiracy theories and falsehoods over the years — some of which we’ve debunked.
The photo was passed around amid other online attempts to tie Thunberg to Soros.
The Gateway Pundit, a popular conservative blog, claimed in a misleading headline that the “Official Escort for 16-Year-Old Global Warming ‘Expert’ Greta Thunberg Is a Leftist Hack Funded by George Soros Org.” The post centered on Thunberg’s fellow climate activist Luisa Neubauer — not an “official escort” or “handler,” as the story says. The story cites Neubauer’s connection to the organization ONE, a nonprofit working to combat poverty and disease that has received “major backing” from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
It’s correct that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation credits Soros with being involved in the origins of ONE, and that Soros’ nonprofit Open Society Foundations and its Open Society Policy Center are among nearly 50 publicly listed donors to ONE. But Neubauer was a youth ambassador to the organization — which ONE describes as a “volunteer” role for young activists — and the Gateway Pundit offered no substantiation in its article for the idea that Neubauer herself was “funded” by a “George Soros Org.”
Furthermore, Neubauer, 23, told another fact-checking site, Lead Stories, that she “never received any money from the ONE position.” She described Thunberg as a “friend,” saying she has never been in a position to supervise her.
Neubauer in a recent TEDx Talk said that she first participated in a climate strike when she joined a Thunberg demonstration at the U.N.’s Climate Change Conference in 2018 — which prompted her to begin FridaysForFuture demonstrations, inspired by Thunberg, in Germany.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.
“About ONE.” ONE.org. Accessed 30 Sep 2019.
“Financials.” ONE.org. Accessed 30 Sep 2019.
“Greta Thunberg is the granddaughter of left-wing billionaire George Soros” (translated). SecretNews.fr. 28 Aug 2019.
“Greta Thunberg (Young Climate Activist) at the Climate Action Summit 2019 – Official Video.” United Nations. YouTube. 23 Sep 2019.
Thunberg, Greta (@gretathunberg). “Thank you @algore for being a true pioneer. Very few people have done more. It was an honour to meet you. #climatecrisis #climatebreakdown.” Instagram. 30 Dec 2018.
U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. “Voices leading the next generation on the global climate crisis.” 18 Sep 2019.
“Why I became a climate activist — and you should, too | Luisa Neubauer.” TEDx Talks. YouTube. 1 Aug 2019.