Playground nails: How claims went viral

A nail glued to a playground slide
Photos of the nails have been spreading among concerned parents in London [BBC]

Viral images of nails attached to playground equipment in an Oxfordshire village have sparked misinformation about where the vandalism took place.

After contacting the Marcham Parish Council and residents, BBC Verify spoke with the mum who found the nails.

She did not want to be named, but said she and her daughter had discovered seven nails glued to a seesaw, swings, slides and other equipment on Monday.

She provided original photos which confirm her account.

After removing the nails, she handed them into a nearby shop and reported the incident on a private community Facebook group.

The original images, which she shared in the group and later went viral, were passed on to BBC Verify. When we examined them, we found that the timestamp information was consistent with what we were told. In addition, we were able to match visual clues in the playground that confirm they were taken in Marcham.

BBC Verify is not able to establish the exact circumstances the nails were glued to the equipment, but Thames Valley Police has confirmed officers are investigating.

However, the mother said she has not yet been contacted by the force, and the nails have not been collected from the shop.

Although the incident took place in a village near Abingdon in Oxfordshire, false claims that the playground was located in and around London began to spread online - creating concern for parents.

Graphic of a post in a Facebook group called "Brentford Friends" that has 30.4 thousand followers. It shares several images of nails in playground equipment and the text says: "Attention: This is a forward from a fellow parent at school. Good Morning, we were forwarded the above pictures by our school PTA, apparently various playgrounds have been targeted where someone has stuck nails/swings slides etc"

The earliest false claim we found was shared on X on Tuesday evening, posted by an account called Tower Hamlets Crime Watch. The post incorrectly said the nails had been glued to equipment in one of the borough's park in east London.

On Wednesday morning, some public figures with large social media followings also shared the photos, including Channel 5 presenter Storm Huntley - who said she had been warned that the incident happened in Richmond, south west London. The post was viewed more than 52,000 times on X.

Another post, written in Turkish by someone also living in London, also incorrectly stated the incident occurred in Richmond.

The post was subsequently corrected and clarified, but it remains up and has more than 1.5 million views.

A post on X, written in Turkish, which shares the pictures and says they were wrongly taken in Richmond

Around the same time, posts in local Facebook groups in places like Ealing in west London also warned parents to check playground equipment, while one concerned parent sent the photos to a Whatsapp group in Tooting.

By the afternoon, similar posts had spread to social media groups covering even more London areas, including Brentford and Wandsworth.

Map showing locations of 10 mistaken reports in London, as well as the village of Marchan in Oxfordshire

These false claims continued to be amplified in spite of media reports explicitly stating the incident took place in Marcham.

The pictures were also shared by several global media outlets, including in Russia and Spain.

On Wednesday evening at least six London councils - as well as nearby Broxbourne in Hertfordshire - published statements clarifying the incident had not taken place in their areas.

But despite assurances, misinformation continues to spread. On Thursday morning a woman posted the images on a local Northolt Facebook group claiming they had been passed on by a nearby nursery.

Additional reporting by Adam Durbin, Alex Murray and Paul Brown.