Thousands of protesters are rallying in major Chinese cities after the government announced new restrictive zero-COVID measures that include lockdowns and lengthy quarantine periods. While these protests are happening in China, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is underway in Qatar.
People on social media are claiming the Chinese government is censoring footage of spectators in order to keep people in the country from seeing large crowds not adhering to strict COVID-19 protocols.
One viral tweet said, “BREAKING: Chinese media blur the spectators at Qatar World Cup. They don't want Chinese people to know that people in other countries don't wear masks anymore…”
The video posted with the tweet had a clear view of the field as players took their positions or celebrated goals, but the crowd in the stands was blurred over. The video has been posted by multiple accounts across Twitter, racking up millions of views.
Did Chinese state media blur spectators at the World Cup, like viral tweets claim?
No, Chinese state media did not blur spectators at the World Cup in news broadcasts.
WHAT WE FOUND
The Chinese government operates a majority of the print and broadcast organizations across the country. In an analysis of several of those state-run media outlets, VERIFY found the networks or publications did not blur the crowds in their coverage of the World Cup.
The viral video that included the blurred crowd appears to have originated from the Douyin account @CMG_yangshipin, the social media account of China Central Television (CCTV). The account has several social media videos showing their coverage of the World Cup and the crowds were not blurred in the background (see examples here and here).
Douyin is the Chinese equivalent of TikTok and is owned by the Chinese government.
The video in the viral tweets shows clips from two matches from the first weekend of the World Cup – the match between the USA and Wales, and the match between the Netherlands and Senegal.
Using InVid, a video forensics tool, VERIFY analyzed the keyframes of the video and conducted a reverse image search of the frames. VERIFY found local Chinese broadcasts from CCTV that included the same gameplay. In the CCTV reports, the network did not blur the crowd.
The videos included an introduction from the anchor, which indicated it was local coverage showing highlights from the World Cup, and then transitioned into gameplay.
The 2-second mark of the viral video, which shows a clip of the USA v. Wales match, is the same frame seen at the 10-second mark of the CCTV broadcast. The full view of the crowd – not blurred – can be seen in the CCTV broadcast.
At 23 seconds into the viral video with the blurred effect, which showed the Netherlands v. Senegal match, VERIFY matched that frame precisely to the 22-second mark of the CCTV footage. Again, the crowd is not blurred on CCTV’s website.
New China News Agency, also known as Xinhua News Agency, and ChinaDaily.com are other state-run news agencies and they have not blurred any images of spectators in their coverage of the World Cup. China Global Television Network, also under the control of the Chinese government, also has also printed photos of the crowd.
This is not the only claim of Chinese media censoring World Cup footage. There have been several accusations the Chinese government is editing live game footage to remove close-up shots of fans. VERIFY was unable to confirm whether this is true because our researchers do not have access to Chinese live footage of games.