After news emerged that a photograph of Anastasia Yankova was circulating as part of a fake news campaign targeting Black Lives Matter protests, the Russian MMA fighter is imploring people not to ‘trust everything you see’ on the internet.
The aforementioned post, which appeared on the Australian Meme Cult — a Facebook group with more than 22,000 members — showed a cropped version of a woman’s bruised face, along with a caption claiming that the person was “beaten and raped” at a BLM protest. The photo attached to the post was actually a picture of Yankova following her bout at Bellator 161 in September 2016.
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”.
The attempted fake news was uncovered by AFP Australia, who applied a reverse image search on Google to find the original post on Instagram.
Speaking to Russian media, Yankova revealed that this was not the first time that the exact same photo was used in fake news.
“The first time this photo of mine was used by a girl on Instagram who built an entire account based on this photo,” Yankova told Championat. “She wrote that her husband had beaten her. Everyone felt sorry for her, and she decided to build a career as a blogger even though she used my photo as her own. When I wrote to her that it wasn’t necessary to do this, she said that she was forced by marketers. After that, she deleted everything.”
Following the incident, Yankova did not expect the photo to be used again, let alone to tarnish the Black Lives Matter movement.
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.”
Given the significance of the situation, Yankova implored her fans not to believe everything they see online.
“When the BLM story started, I thought: “Lord, how can you believe everything iso easily?” We need to verify the information because we’re in the age of the Internet. And there are a lot of such stories, not only with my photo. You just need to not trust everything that you see.”