30 September 2023
Fact checkMisleading

Analysis: Viral social media posts about Dutch farmers’ protests

Annie Lab investigated two images used in misleading social media posts about the ongoing farmers’ protests in the Netherlands.
AFP photo / Used with permission

Since June 22, many farmers in the Netherlands have staged a series of protests after lawmakers voted to reduce emissions of pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and ammonia from livestock and fertilizer by half by 2030, according to media reports.

As the protests continue to escalate and gain traction, unverified claims have circulated across social media, and Annie Lab looked into the following two trending claims on Twitter:

    1. Video shows a tank the protesting farmers bought to use against the Dutch police
    2. Photo shows a fighter jet protesters stole from a Royal Netherlands Air Force base

Misleading: Video shows a restored tank after a veterans’ event

On July 7, a tweet in Chinese claimed that Dutch farmers bought a British tank from a Russian arms dealer to use against the police.

It included a video of a tank rolling off a tank transporter and driving on the pavement. The number “34” and text “T-212598” can be seen, painted in red and white respectively, on the hull and turret of the tank.

The number “34” and text “T-212598” can be seen, painted in red and white respectively, on the body of the tank.

This video has also been shared by other Twitter users several times in English (here, here, and here) with similar claims. In total, these tweets have been shared over 390 times and received close to 1,500 likes at the time of writing.

However, this video does not show a tank purchased by the farmers.

Through an image search, Annie Lab was able to find a video of the same tank posted by a Facebook account named Classic MV’s.

The account owner seems to have been aware of the claims linking the tank to the farmers’ protests and denied any association.

The Facebook post said the tank was among the many old army vehicles showcased in an event commemorating the end of World War II.

Classic MV’s explained how the viral tank video came to be

According to the post, the event was called “Ommen 75 Jaar Vrijheid” (“Ommen 75 Years of Freedom” in English) and held between July 1 and 3, 2022.

A video filmed during this event shows the same tank several times. The footage was uploaded by Vechtdal TV, a channel mentioned by the event’s official website, on July 7.

Annie Lab created a short video to compare the two footage (below):

Classic MV’s wrote that the tank was supposed to be unloaded on July 4, a day after the event ended, but because the farmers were blocking the way, it could not have been done.

When the tank was unloaded the following day near the protest site, some people were recording videos, leading to various misleading social media claims linking the tank to the protest, according to Classic MV’s post.

The tank in question is called Sherman Firefly. It was used by the United Kingdom and other countries during WWII.

Classic MV’s’ Facebook page features several posts (here and here) dating as far back as 2020 regarding the restoration process of this old military vehicle.

A further look at the account led to this image showing a structure that looks like a warehouse or storage in the background.

A logo with yellow and blue slanted lines with the letters “RD” can be found on the exterior of the building.

Annie Lab looked into the logo and discovered it belongs to a company called Dijkstra Plastics.

The Dutch company was mentioned several times in Classic MV’s’ posts discussing the restoration of the Sherman Firefly (such as here and here).

Dijkstra Plastics’ logo on the wall in an image posted by Classic MV’s (left). The same logo can be found on the LinkedIn account of Dijkstra Plastics.

A list of surviving Sherman Firefly tanks found on the internet says Classic MV’s is the owner of the restored tank in question and the photograph of this tank included in the list is credited to Auke Dijkstra, the CEO of Dijkstra Plastics.

The list also indicates that it was previously part of the Littlefield Collection, which Sotheby’s called “one of the world’s largest private collections of armored vehicles.”

It is clear that the tank in the video does not belong to “a Russian arms dealer” as claimed in the misleading tweet.

The list of surviving Sherman Fireflies included a photo of the tank.

This claim has also been fact-checked by Lead Stories and Associated Press.

Misleading: Photo shows a fighter jet being transported in Croatia for a commemoration event in 2011

A tweet posted on July 6 claimed the protesting Dutch farmers had broken into a Royal Netherlands Air Force base and stolen a fighter jet. It included a photo showing a tractor towing a warplane.

A similar claim was made in another tweet as well. Collectively, the two tweets have over 13,000 likes and 4,100 retweets at the time of writing.

These claims are misleading, however.

Through reverse image search, Annie Lab has learned the image was taken in Croatia in May 2011.

Several local news outlets (here and here) reported about the tractor towing the jet plane, MiG-21, from Velika Gorica to Jarun in Zagreb county where the warplane was exhibited to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Croatian Armed Forces’ establishment.

Various photos of the same jet taken from different angles were posted by 24sata, Croatia’s highest circulation daily newspaper. The news organization credited these photos to MORH, the Ministry of Defense of the country.

The ministry also published a press release with one of the photos in which the coat of arms of Croatia can be seen on the side of the MiG-21.

The coat of arms of Croatia can be seen on the side of the MiG-21.

Annie Lab could not find any information about a supposed break-in at an airforce base in the Netherlands, but we can confirm that the image in the tweet shows an old news photo in Croatia.

In March 2022, this picture was also used in misleading posts claiming that a Ukrainian farmer captured a Russian military jet. Such claims have been debunked by Reuters and AFP Fact Check.