Fact Check: Protesting Pilots Are NOT Holding Posters Showing So-Called Chemtrails

Fact Check

  • by: Ioana Burtea
Fact Check: Protesting Pilots Are NOT Holding Posters Showing So-Called Chemtrails Photo Altered

Are pilots protesting against planes spreading deadly chemicals in the atmosphere by holding up photos of chemtrails? No, that's not true: The image being distributed on TikTok and other platforms have been digitally altered to replace the original content shown on posters carried by pilots during a protest in New York in 2011.

The claim originated from a TikTok video (archived here) by @andreyadrian665 on June 13, 2023, with a caption reading (translated into English by Lead Stories staff):

Look what we have here...Awakening of conscience. Pilots who refuse to spread the death trails. Global Satanists Exterminated

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

Screenshot 2023-06-19 at 16.02.35.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Mon Jun 19 12:14:32 2023 UTC)

The original image is from a protest on September 27, 2011, in New York by airline pilots against the merger of two U.S. airlines. The pilots were all holding signs about the merger with messages like "What's a pilot worth?" and "Management is destroying our airline."

However, online users digitally altered the image to make it appear the pilots were carrying pictures showing so-called "chemtrails." The image has been recycled by social media users to spread the widely debunked chemtrails conspiracy theory. Lead Stories has shown that "chemtrails" is not a real phenomenon.

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  Ioana Burtea

Ioana Burtea has worked in journalism for 15 years. She started her career at Mediafax news agency in Bucharest and has written for DoR magazine for over seven years. Her collaborations include publications like Europe & Me, New Eastern Europe, Balkan Insight and Washington Post. Ioana published pieces on the justice system in Romania, social affairs, politics and personal essays. In 2018,  she became a fellow of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.  In 2021, she received the first prize in the Portrait category at the national Superscrieri journalism awards.

Read more about or contact Ioana Burtea

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