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Anastasia Yankova photo circulated in fake news about Black Lives Matter protests

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The Bellator fighter has since spoken out and condemned the use of her photographs to spread fake news about the ongoing protests.

A photograph of a person with a bruised face that was shared across multiple Facebook groups in June 2020 claiming violence at Black Lives Matter protests turned out to be an old photograph of Anastasia Yankova taken after one of her MMA fights in 2016.

According to AFP Australia, the Facebook posts, which showed a cropped version of Yankova’s face, claimed that the person was “beaten and raped” at a Black Lives Matters protest.

The post reads: “The other night at the BLM protest I was beaten and raped by three POC. I didn’t call the police or report it. I don’t want to see any more black lives ruined by police brutality. #endpolice #defundthepolice #blacklivesmatter”.

Over the past month, anti-racism demonstrations have taken place around the world to protest police brutality and the killing of George Floyd, the African-American man killed by a white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes until he suffocated. The officer ordered Mr. Floyd to “relax” while the restrained man gasped, “Please, I can’t breathe.”

Along with the anti-racism protests, there was been a noticeable increase in fake news related to the protests. The Yankova photo appeared on the Australian Meme Cult — a Facebook group with more than 22,000 members — and was shared repeatedly before being taken down.

AFP Australia

AFP Australia was able to find the original photo through a reverse image search on Google, which led them back to Yankova’s Instagram post from September 18, 2016 — just two days removed from her Bellator 161 victory in Texas. Her Instagram post carries the caption, “This is MMA, babe.”

“It’s sad how people [are] using the picture for fake news,” Yankova told AFP. “It’s my picture, which I took after my fight at Bellator 161. This fight was not easy, and I took the pic, cause I wanted to show this part of professional fighters life too.”