The pollution is so bad in China that it uses big TV screens so its citizens can see the sunrise. Something similar to that made the headlines of the biggest publications and news outlets in recent days across the globe but fact checking must not be so common these days, as the story that went viral, is a hoax.

The most respected media outlets such as TIME, CBS News, Daily Mail, The Huffington Post, and the Mirror, along with other publications that followed suit fell for what could have been an amazing story in this age of big screen TVs and global warming.

The banner image used for the story is a photo taken at Tiananmen Square with people walking, buying from a vendor, probably sightseeing amid a thick smog that enveloped the place. On the background, is a large TV screen displaying a sunrise scene.

News outlet Tech in Asia raised the red flag on the fake sunrise story

"In truth, that sunrise was probably on the screen for less than 10 seconds at a time, as it was part of an ad for tourism in China's Shandong province. The ad plays every day throughout the day all year round no matter how bad the pollution is. The photographer simply snapped the photo at the moment when the sunrise appeared. Look closely, and you can even see the Shandong tourism logo in the bottom right corner. The photo was credited to ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images, so a Daily Mail reporter did not take it," wrote Paul Bischoff of Tech in Asia.

"Yes, Beijing is polluted, as we at Tech in Asia have also been critical of, but this story is complete bullshit. International media should be embarrassed for not taking even a moment to second guess...," Bischoff added.

TIME published the story on Jan. 17 and since then has appended the story twice.

"The original post did not mention that the large screens in Beijing's Tiananmen Square broadcast panoramic scenes on a daily basis, regardless of atmospheric conditions, nor did it state that the sunrise was part of a tourism commercial. Amendments have been made to correct these lacunae," the erratum read.

The Daily Mail published its story on the same day and as of reporting seems to have not made corrections to the report.

"The smog has become so thick in Beijing that the city's natural light-starved masses have begun flocking to huge digital commercial television screens across the city to observe virtual sunrises," read the first paragraph of the article. "The futuristic screens installed in the Chinese capital usually advertize tourist destinations, but as the season's first wave of extremely dangerous smog hit - residents donned air masks and left their homes to watch the only place where the sun would hail over the horizon that morning."

Meanwhile the Huffington Post seem to have straightened out its story about the fake sunrise noting that the huge screen is used for advertisement campaigns.

"Despite hazardous levels of smog and limited visibility, you can still enjoy the sunrise in China's Beijing. You'll have to watch it on TV, though. Amid a thick grey haze, the giant video screens in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Thursday beamed out images of the rising sun. The glooming pictures appeared to be part of an advertising campaign for China's Shandong province and provided a stark contrast with the thick grey clouds that have taken over Beijing in previous days," the report read.

UK-based Daily Mirror still sticks to the story.

"Do not adjust your set - this screen is now the only chance Beijing residents have of seeing the daily sunrise in their city. Broadcast on giant panels usually reserved for tourist advertisements, the footage highlights the extent of the problem of dangerous air pollution. A lack of sky vision has become such an issue that people now flock to the screens which are located at several points," part of its article read.

Amid the unchecked hoax, international media got one fact straight, that pollution in China is indeed very bad.

"01-21-2014 20:00; PM2.5; 76.0; 162; Unhealthy (at 24-hour exposure at this level)," the official Twitter account of the U.S. department of State AIr Quality Monitoring Program, Beijing Air, tweeted.

On the StateAir website, "Unhealthy" on its index is interpreted to be air quality so bad that it can cause premature death for people who have compromised health.

"Increased aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly; increased respiratory effects in general population," the explanation of the possible health effects and precautions to be taken for the corresponding pollution level read. "Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion."

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.