“Islamist walks down French street draped in ISIS flag. Nobody cares.” This tweet in English, accompanied by a picture, has the potential to influence. Especially given that it was posted on Friday, April 21st, the day after the Champs-Elysées attack, and retweeted almost 11,000 times. However, the tweet’s author, British blogger Paul Joseph Watson, is fascinated by conspiracy theories and omits mentioning that the picture was in fact taken long before the attack which caused the death of a policeman, and that several people have already been convicted for carrying this flag.
It is impossible to date this picture with absolute certainty. However, the photo did go viral on social media well before 2017. One internet user uploaded it in November 2015, and a month earlier had sent the original version containing a larger background which enabled location identification (notably due to the coffee shop in the background). A search on GoogleMaps confirmed that the picture was indeed taken close to 19 Boulevard du Montparnasse in Paris.
A journalist from AFP, a CrossCheck project partner, contacted the internet user who confirmed having taken this picture himself on July 23rd, 2014, during a demonstration against the Israeli operation “Bordure protectrice à Gaza” (“Protective border in Gaza”). Without having viewed the original it is impossible to confirm this, but this demonstration did take place on July 23rd, 2014.
At the time of the demonstration the ISIS (Daesh) flag was not yet known – it was less than a month after ISIS’s declaration of a caliphate.
Furthermore, since the January 2015 attacks committed by the Kouachi brothers claiming Al-Qaeda affiliation and Amédy Coulibaly claiming ISIS affiliation, numerous people have been condemned in France for advocating terrorism through hanging the organization’s banner from their window or selling ISIS flags.