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Fake news

Fake news of the week: BioNTech’s political meddling

Did Uğur Şahin, CEO of BioNTech, threaten to suspend all political donations?

BioNTech was the centre of some widely shared misinformation. Photo: IMAGO / Martin Wagner

Each week, in a partnership with Correctiv, Exberliner will bring you a piece of misinformation that has been circulating online – and the corresponding fact check.

On Facebook, users were outraged. Commenting on what appeared to be an article from the German media outlet NTV, they wrote messages like “I demand new elections” and “Prohibit party donations!” 

The headline of the article which caused this uproar was simply: “Biontech puts pressure on politics”. Underneath, the text explained how the BioNTech boss, Uğur Şahin, had threatened to cease all donations to political parties unless a general vaccine mandate was enforced in Germany. The idea that the head of a pharmaceutical corporation would so directly interfere in political decision making was upsetting to the many people who responded to this post. 

It was also, however, not true, at least not in this case. The article never existed. The image being widely shared on social media in Germany was manipulated. 

Source: Facebook; Screenshot und mark up: CORRECTIV.Faktencheck

Uncovering the fake was simple. Correctiv did a quick google search and found that no such article existed. And, on closer inspection, there are spelling mistakes in the doctored image. The German word for political parties, Bundestagsparteien, was misspelled as Bundestagtspartien. Screenshots of news articles are a common way for fake news stories to spread across the internet and, in Germany, NTV is a common target.