June 3, 2020
Taylor Fang | MediaWise Teen Fact-Checker

MediaWise Rating: LEGIT

As the number of COVID-19 deaths continues to climb, infographics aimed at putting those numbers in perspective are spreading online. We came across this graphic on Twitter, which compares the number of U.S. deaths from COVID-19 to U.S. deaths in several wars. The tweet also states that it took two months for the number of coronavirus deaths to surpass those of the Vietnam War, during which direct conflict lasted 11 years.

The graphic was posted April 28, and states that war figures include American military deaths in battle, and in areas where the war was fought, as available. However, the post didn’t cite any sources. Is this legit? Here’s how we found out.

Start with a reverse image search

Because the post includes an image, we started with a reverse Google image search to try to find where this graphic originated. And by clicking on the “similar images” tab, we were led straight to this National Geographic article, which says “U.S. coronavirus deaths now surpass fatalities in the Vietnam War.”

Dig deeper with verified sources

National Geographic included source material for this infographic: the Department of Veterans Affairs and Johns Hopkins University, both reliable and trusted sources — one government and the other academic. National Geographic also linked to both sources, so we were able to see that data for ourselves.

A Department of Veterans Affairs document confirmed the casualties from the wars listed in the post. Likewise, Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 dashboard confirmed that the number of deaths has surpassed the number of U.S. fatalities in the Vietnam War.

Our Rating

This claim IS LEGIT. The original tweet doesn’t reference any sources, but by doing a reverse Google image search and digging a little deeper, we were able to track down where this information came from.

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Alex Mahadevan is director of MediaWise at the Poynter Institute. He has taught digital media literacy to thousands of middle and high schoolers, and has…
Alex Mahadevan

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  • Alex, why have you assumed that the Department of Veterans Affairs and Johns Hopkins University are both reliable and trusted sources, because one is governmental and one is academic? Should it not be the case to discover if a claim is legitimate by exploring who from those institutes gathered the data?