Japan Fact-checks: Fabricated disinformation attributed to Japan

(Issued on May 22, 2020)

Welcome to FIJ’s first English FactChecks Report. We will be publishing this Japan-related fact-checking report weekly and in four parts consisting of Trend Analysis, Notable Case, Japan-related Fact-checks by Other Organizations, and Announcements & News. 

Trend Analysis

Japan becomes another attribution source of fabricated information. 

Last month, fabricated misinformation claiming “Japanese Nobel Prize winner had said the COVID-19 was Chinese-made went viral around the world. The claim was the most wide-spread Japan-related fabricated disinformation of the COVID-19 infodemic. Thanks to the Poynter #coronavirusfact alliance, this was debunked at least 28 times by May 22nd by various fact-checking sites.

The Poynter fact-check database shows that the majority of wide-spread falsehoods are always attributed to respected authorities, well-known scientists, or developed countries. Japan has thus joined other scientifically advanced countries in becoming the attribution source of fake information. 

This trend of misplaced or fake attributions is expected to continue through this infodemic and beyond. All the authorities and public figures are advised to remain vigilant and to prepare their channels of information distribution well for this eventuality.

(Eddy Duan)
Notable Case

False: Nobel laureate Dr. Honjo says “this virus is Chinese-made” (fact-checked by INFACT on April 28, 2020)

Fabricated information claiming that Distinguished Professor of Kyoto University and awardee of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Tasuku Honjo has purportedly said that the novel coronavirus was artificially created in a Chinese laboratory has spread widely in India and in other parts of the world.

Upon notification by the Indian fact-checking organization BOOM, the FIJ contacted the Institute for Advanced Studies at Kyoto University, where Professor Honjo serves as vice president. They categorically denied the contents of the post, saying it was “fake news.” Additionally, they unequivocally denied any past enrollment by the professor at any laboratory in Wuhan.

As a result of our collaboration, BOOM published the first fact-checking article titled “False: Japanese Nobel Laureate Tasuku Honjo Says SARS-CoV-2 Is Man-made“. 

(Miki Ando)
Fact-checks at a glance

We picked up the fact-checks relating to Japan from the IFCN’s #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance database.

  1. Fact-checked by: VERA Files | Philippines (May 20, 2020) 

Partly False: Japan is suffering a second wave of COVID-19 cases after lifting quarantine measures. 

Explanation: Only Hokkaido, the country’s northernmost prefectural island, has experienced a second spike of coronavirus disease cases. Read the full article here (English).

  2. Fact-checked by: Les Décodeurs | France (May 12, 2020) 

MISLEADING: Japanese schools reopened then were closed again due to a second wave of coronavirus. 

Explanation: Schools reopening depends on each prefecture. Schools only reopened on the northern island of Hokkaido, and stayed closed almost everywhere else in Japan. Read the full article here (in French).

  3. Fact-checked by: Open | Italy (May 5, 2020)

MISLEADING: A Japanese study reveals that Covid-19 mortality is lower than the flu.

Explanation: The study is a preprint without peer review. The study does not say that in Japan mortality is less than the flu, but asks for another study to prove it. Read the full article here (in Italian).

Check out the IFCN’s #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance database of 5,000+ fact-checks from more than 70 countries.

Announcements & News

・We have launched an English twitter account: check us out here 

・For more details on our COVID-19 factcheck project, check us out  here.

・For useful Japan-related information resources in English, check us out here.

・You can suggest a fact-check through the suggest-a-fact-check” form. Here the FactCheck Initiative Japan (FIJ) can help you to gather Japan-related information, contact Japanese expertise, or conduct research using our network. We hope our contributions can be of help to the whole international fact-checking community. 

Please feel free to send your fact-check requests or questions to Inquiries Form.

Hope you stay well,

FIJ researchers team.