VERA FILES FACT CHECK: This girl was a 2014 victim of domestic abuse, NOT COVID-19

Filipino netizens are sharing a hoax that website Mark News (marknews2.blogspot.com) published on June 23, which maliciously uses a six-year-old photo of a little girl lying in a casket.

Trying to get sympathy from viewers, the site falsely claimed she died from COVID-19 with this headline: “Sweet baby buried admist [sic] tears after. Contacting corona Virus-vidoe [sic] will make you cry.”

This is false.

The uncensored image was taken in the United States long before COVID-19 was discovered, and actually shows a victim of domestic violence. It first appeared in a Jan. 24, 2014 story on website totonicapan.org, which featured several photos taken during the wake of the girl and her sister, both less than two years old at the time, and their mother.

The three were killed by Miguel Mejia-Ramos in a fit of drunken rage towards his wife, whom he first stabbed to death in their apartment that Jan. 18, before doing the same to the kids, according to totonicapan.org and several news reports.

Mark News’s false story also featured a “video” and a button to “view more pictures,” but clicking on either of them led to the loading of a suspicious domain -- passtechusa.com -- before redirecting to random websites. It could have reached over 23.2 million people.

Among the false post’s top traffic generators is local FB group Francis Leo Marcos for Change movement, which told readers “Don’t be heartless” and invited them to share the post. Other top traffic generators were FB groups Friends Who Like Jesus Daily LIFE and Mother Teresa's daily message.

All three posts have since been taken down, but Mark News’s story -- the only story on the website -- remains live.

This is not the first time publishers of disinformation misrepresented photos of sick minors as COVID-19 patients, in a bid to harvest likes on social media. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: This boy died of leukemia; NOT a COVID-19 case; VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Viral photo of baby ‘Kyle’ diagnosed with COVID-19 NOT TRUE)

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

FOR FURTHER READING

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Viral photo of baby ‘Kyle’ diagnosed with COVID-19 NOT TRUE

It shows an infant from 7 years ago.

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte DID NOT open PGH for Wuhan COVID-19 patients

This story is fake. Don't believe it.

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: This boy died of leukemia; NOT a COVID-19 case

His photo had been used in multiple posts on Facebook as early as May 13.

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Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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