A number of readers in West Africa sent messages to the FRANCE 24 Observers team asking us to fact-check a video that has been shared across WhatsApp groups in the region. In the video, a palm tree is apparently floating through the air, as if by magic. A voice can be heard praising Allah in Arabic. But, of course, trees can’t fly – and there’s a simple reason behind this magic trick.
This is such a quick fact-check, you don’t need any online tools or techniques to debunk it – just a keen eye. If you look closely, you can see a rope coming out of the fronds and reaching up into the air. But we can’t see what it is attached to.
In this screengrab below, we’ve modified the brightness and colour of the image with the tool Forensically Beta, to make the rope more visible.
When we typed the keywords ‘flying palm tree’ into a Google search in English or in Arabic, we can find the same video, always with the same caption stating that it’s a flying palm tree. But the location described tends to differ: some Internet-users say it was taken in Iraq, some in Oman, and others in Algeria.
So far, we haven’t been able to find where the video comes from originally. But one thing is sure – you haven’t seen an elephant fly, and you haven’t seen a palm tree fly either.
First published here on France24.