International Fact Checking Day 2023: Women stuffing seagull into bag ‘lacks context’ - here’s why

Full Fact say a video currently circulating online of a women stuffing a  seagull into bag ‘lacks context’ as International Fact Checking Day arrives
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International Fact Checking Day is here, highlighting how it’s more important than ever to check the validity of information you get from the internet. With the digital age comes convenience but also scams and misinformation too.

The annual awareness day is promoted by the International Fact-Checking Network in partnership with fact-checking organisations around the world - they are united in a belief that a ‘healthy information ecosystem’ requires everyone to do their part in elevating facts. In the last year, fact-checkers from across the globe have been combatting disinformation around the war in Ukraine following the success of the Coronavirus Facts Alliance during the pandemic.

Full Fact is a UK based charity debunking false information and is a free resource to help members of the public separate fact from fiction. One incident they recently looked into was a viral moment that garnered almost half a million views, as well as outrage from those who saw it, and the truth behind the video clip serves to highlight the importance of not believing everything you see on the internet.

On March 27, a video of a woman apparently grabbing a seagull and stuffing it in a small bag near Tower Bridge in London has been played more than 400,000 times on Facebook. The caption on the Facebook reel says: “Attention ! [sic] This happened today on Tower Brigde [sic]. Please share, this needs to STOP!”

The post itself doesn’t include a lot of information or surrounding context for the video which has led to a number of social media users commenting about the current cost of living crisis suggesting the bird was caught for food.

However, what many viewers didn’t know was the video wasn’t new nor does it show a seagull being caught by someone intending to eat it, or otherwise harm it. It actually shows trained volunteers catching and marking the bird for research purposes.

The video garnered so much attention that it reached mainstream media and in December 2022, broadcaster Jeremy Vine shared the video (without this caption), asking what was happening in the clip.

The British Trust for Ornithology (the study of birds) responded: “This is all legitimate and it’s acceptable for trained, licensed volunteers to catch some species of bird by hand, which are marked and released as quickly as possible. The data generated provides useful information on bird movements and survival.”

They added: “We do ask bird ringers operating in public places to ensure that members of the public are fully informed about what is taking place, though.”

The British Trust for Ornithology’s website explains the practice of bird ringing “generates information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds, helping us to understand why populations are changing”.

The full fact website states: It is illegal to intentionally kill or injure a gull in the UK, as they have protected status, though councils are able to issue special licenses to destroy the birds or their nests where they cause a risk to public health and safety. 

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