Old video from Times Square shared with a false ‘clown attack’ claim

By: Ishita Goel
June 19 2023

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Old video from Times Square shared with a false ‘clown attack’ claim


The Verdict False

According to reports, the video shows a crowd panicking in Times Square after a motorcycle backfiring was mistaken for an active shooting incident.

Claim ID fa9a5dff


A video, which shows an aerial view of Times Square in New York, is being shared on TikTok with a claim that it shows the footage of a “clown attack” in the United States of America on May 1, 2023. The video shows people screaming and running helter-skelter. 

For years, these hoaxes around “clown attacks” have gone viral on the internet, and these claims have once again gained steam on the platform. However, this video is from 2019 and reportedly shows scenes of chaos at Times Square in New York after people mistook an incident of motorcycle backfiring for active shooting. 

In Fact

Through reverse image search, we found that the video is from 2019. BBC News had shared the video on August 7, 2019, with the description: "Times Square panic over 'gunfire' false alarm." The outlet had reported that a crowd at a New York tourist spot fled after a motorbike backfiring was mistaken for an active shooter.

The New York Times also carried the same video in another report published on August 7, 2019, with the headline “There Was No Gunfire in Times Square. But the Panic Was Still Real.” According to the video caption, “The sound of a motorcycle backfiring was mistaken for gunfire, leading people to panic in Times Square on Tuesday night." The report also said that the police clarified that a backfiring dirt bike was the source of the noise that caused people to panic. Police officers posted in Times Square had noticed a group of dirt bikes starting and revving their engines, and they immediately identified the sound when the bikes backfired, the report further said.  

We can compare the frames from the viral clip to the video posted by the two news organizations. At the 0:01 timestamp in the viral clip, we can see the 'Big Sean' advertisement on the digital board, which can also be seen in the videos shared by the BBC and The New York Times. Similarly, at the 0:14 timestamp, in both videos, we can see the video getting zoomed in and a police car in the center with people running around. 

Logically Facts has previously debunked claims about clown attacks in April 2023.

The Verdict

Clearly, the video alleging a recent attack by clowns in the U.S. is old and unrelated.

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Global Fact-Checks Completed

We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before