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No, USA TODAY did not report Elon Musk’s Neuralink ‘killed nearly 3,000 monkeys’

Fake screenshots falsely claim the newspaper published an article saying animal testing of the brain implants killed 98% of its subjects.

Neuralink, one of Elon Musk’s companies, held a demonstration on Nov. 30 that claimed to show a monkey with one of the company’s brain implants typing using only its mind.

Though not as high-profile as other Musk-owned companies like Tesla, SpaceX, and Twitter, Neuralink has drawn attention for its lofty ambitions of creating “a fully implantable, cosmetically invisible brain-computer interface” and criticism from animal rights groups about how it tests its product.

On Twitter, a screenshot posted multiple times, claiming to be of a USA TODAY article, contained the shocking headline: "Elon Musk's Neuralink implants have killed nearly 3000 monkeys since last December, 98% fatality rate." But some people responded to those tweets suggesting the images might have been faked.

THE QUESTION

Did USA TODAY report that Neuralink killed nearly 3,000 monkeys?

THE SOURCES

  • Gannett, parent company of USA TODAY
  • Internet Archive

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, USA TODAY did not report that Neuralink killed nearly 3,000 monkeys. The screenshots are fake.

WHAT WE FOUND

The screenshots claim to be of an article written by Bailey Schulz, who is a real reporter for USA TODAY.

However, a look at Schulz’s publishing history at the news outlet shows no such article exists.

VERIFY reached out to Schulz and to USA TODAY’s parent company, Gannett. A spokesperson for Gannett responded with a statement confirming the screenshots were not authentic.

“I can confirm the headline depicted in the image you sent is fake and never appeared on usatoday.com,” the statement read in part. “The original article, written by Bailey Schulz, USA TODAY Money Reporter, was titled, Elon Musk's Neuralink to host a 'show and tell.' What we know about the brain implant startup.”

Gannett said viewers might have also seen the authentic article under the headlines, "Neuralink to host 'show and tell' this week. Here's what to expect." and "Elon Musk's Neuralink to give demo on Nov. 30. Here's what to expect." 

The faked screenshots contain a timestamp of Nov. 30. Internet Archive records show the real headline remained consistent from Nov. 29 through Dec. 1. Caches likewise show no evidence of the fake headline on Schulz’s publishing history, or on the USA TODAY Tech page, where the fake screenshots claim the article was posted. The real headline, however, is found on all these pages.

Credit: VERIFY
A real USA TODAY article about Neuralink, on the left. A faked version of the article circulating on Twitter, on the right.

Neuralink has admitted that some monkeys have died during animal testing, but not 3,000. In a blog post on its website addressing accusations of animal cruelty, the company stated eight monkeys had been euthanized during a 2017 collaboration with the California National Primate Research Center at UC Davis, for reasons including “one surgical complication involving the use of the FDA-approved product BioGlue, one device failure, and four suspected device-associated infections.”

A nonprofit group, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which among other causes advocates against animal testing, has lodged multiple complaints involving Neuralink and its treatment of monkeys and other animal subjects.

One letter specifically referring to the 2017 trials says “at least 23 rhesus macaque monkeys were used at UC Davis in a Neuralink-funded project” and contains documents that support that claim. 

But even that letter does not claim Neuralink had close to 3,000 monkey test subjects, let alone that many fatalities.

VERIFY requested comment from Neuralink regarding the fake screenshots, and updated information on the total number of monkeys tested on and how many have died. Neuralink has not yet responded.

The VERIFY team works to separate fact from fiction so that you can understand what is true and false. Please consider subscribing to our daily newsletter, text alerts and our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Learn More »

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