26 September 2023

False: This video does not show a WHO official touching a female conference attendee in China

The man is a Nobel Prize laureate in physics, attending a conference with his significant other who was having a sore back.

A video circulating on Twitter shows a man stroking the back of a woman sitting next to him during what appears to be a conference in China.

It has been shared with a false claim that he is a delegate from the World Health Organization inappropriately touching a female attendee during a briefing session about the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

The post in Japanese alleges the clip shows how “dirty” and “untrustworthy” WHO officials are. It has been viewed more than 245,000 times with about 9,000 shares and 14,000 likes.

Similar fictitious claims have been shared widely in Chinese. Another tweet in English shows the same video and claims it is an Australian politician instead of a WHO official.

These allegations are false. The man in the video is a 2006 Nobel Prize laureate in physics, Professor George Smoot, not someone from WHO or a politician.

The clip shows Smoot attending a business conference in Julu County in Hebei Province in China in June 2018 with his significant other.

Annie Lab contacted the American astrophysicist and he confirmed through email that it is him in the video and his partner was having a sore back at the time.

Annie Lab first identified the banner that shows a slogan used in the conference, which led to some local media coverage of the event (also here).

Objects in the video (left) matches with the ones in the news photo (right)

It was one of a series of events organized by the county government to promote local products and tourism as well as to attract investments.

Smoot was there as the chief technology counsel to the county government, according to a news report.