The viral hoaxes targeting those looking for information about Irma online began early, with a viral map last week that showed the hurricane following Hurricane Harvey’s path, headed straight toward Houston.
The map, of course, was fake. On the Internet, fake news and viral hoaxes are inevitable ahead of a natural disaster. As people search for real-time information and images about storms such as Irma, it’s very easy to make a shareable, but fictional, post go massively viral.
As we’ve done before, we’re going to track the hoaxes, fake news and other misinformation you might see about Irma online in coming days. If you see any we don’t have, please feel free to let me know.
I’ve now organized this post into a few rough categories, as the list has grown.
A video tweeted by the White House’s director of social media does not show Miami Airport
Dan Scavino, the White House’s director of social media, has been reposting videos and photos he appears to have pulled from social media showing the destruction in Miami all day.
This one isn’t from Irma, or Miami:
The airport replied to Scavino within minutes, letting him know he was wrong:
We weren’t immediately sure of the exact origins of this video, but it’s at least a few weeks old. Here it is on a YouTube channel — one that, it’s worth noting, has been known to reuse old footage for new disasters before — from August. That video claims to be from Mexico City’s airport.
Scavino’s tweet suggested he had shared videos like this one with President Trump and Vice President Pence. Scavino later deleted the tweet.
This viral Facebook live video does not show the ‘face of Hurricane Irma’
On Monday morning, more than 4 million people watched a live video from Ebuzz, which said it showed the “face of Hurricane Irma” from somewhere in Florida:
The video, like several other viral “live” feeds of Irma over the past several days, is not broadcasting live from Irma’s path, and does not show anything actually related to the storm. The stream, which had been up for three hours when we saw it, loops a few seconds of an old video showing a strange cloud formation. It appears that the original video is from 2011, filmed in New Brunswick, Canada.
This video does not show a construction crane spinning around on top of a Miami building
A viral tweet claimed to show a crane spinning around wildly on top of a building in Miami, thanks to Irma:
The video is not from Irma. We haven’t confirmed the exact origins, but it shows up in multiple YouTube videos from August, connecting it to Typhoon Hato. So at the very least, it’s a few weeks old.
Dramatic videos do not show downtown Miami completely underwater.
Videos like the one below are going around Twitter as Irma hits Florida:
The video may look harrowing, but the caption isn’t accurate. In fact, the video is of the Miami River, and not just of a formerly dry road.
Misleading tweets like these are getting hundreds of shares on Twitter on Sunday. One viral tweet claims that their footage of the river shows “down town” Miami “underwater.” And some news outlets, like Raw Story, have picked these videos up with headlines that do little to clarify what you’re actually seeing.
While it’s true that the videos show some flooding in Miami, they don’t show city streets being totally consumed by the ocean, as all these viral tweets seem to suggest.
Here’s another video from the same area, with a more accurate description:
Fake safety tips
Don’t store your valuables in the dishwasher
There are several viral copy-paste messages circulating on Facebook and Twitter as Irma nears Florida. One of them urges those in its path to store belongings in a dishwasher, claiming the appliance is waterproof. But that’s not necessarily true.
Here’s a copy of that message, sent by a reader who saw it in a now-deleted tweet:
A super-viral post on Facebook with this advice has more than one million shares.
As this advice exploded online, BuzzFeed went ahead and asked a dishwasher manufacturer about this, and it said, don’t do it.
A free ‘walkie talkie’ app will not allow your cellphone to work with no service or Internet
A viral copy-paste chain on Facebook is urging users in the path of Irma to download Zello, a free voice communication app that basically turns your phone into a walkie talkie. While downloading Zello might not be a bad idea for those anticipating an emergency situation, the central claim of that viral message is false.
“In case of no service the app allows you to communicate with your friends and family,” one version of the copy-paste message reads. There are similar messages getting hundreds of retweets on Twitter, all encouraging those expecting a direct hit from the massive storm to download Zello as a last-resort communication tool.
But the copy-paste message is wrong. Zello does need either a 2G data network or Internet to work, and the app makers have been trying to counter this misinformation to its quickly-growing user base:
That’s not to say that Zello hasn’t played a real role in hurricane safety recently: As my colleague Peter Holley has explained, the app became a key communication tool for volunteer rescuers working in Houston in the aftermath of Harvey.
This super-viral video doesn’t show Irma’s winds hitting one of the first islands in its path
One of the first videos to circulate claiming to show Irma’s impact on a Caribbean island in its path is at least a year old. Here’s one version of the video being shared:
Another version of the video, claiming it is footage of Irma, also has 20 million views on Facebook, and more than 600,000 shares.
Pic Pedant, who flagged this video for us, wasn’t initially sure of its origins. Another Twitter hoax-buster — @hoaxoffame — later managed to track down the exact location in Dolores, Uruguay, where this footage was filmed.
Here’s the exact same video on YouTube, uploaded more than a year ago:
… and this one, of a flipped-over bus, doesn’t either
You might have seen a viral, harrowing Facebook “live” video around showing what appears to be a human chain trying to rescue passengers from a flipped-over bus, in the middle of a hurricane. Like this one:
Spoiler alert: The video isn’t live, and it’s not from Irma. It’s an old video, being streamed on a loop by hoaxers looking to go viral. And it was spread, among other places, by a formerly verified Facebook page for one Carlos Trewher. It has millions of views across Facebook, on Trewher’s now-deleted stream and on the others like the one we took that screengrab from, that are popping up in its wake.
… Nor does this one.
A video from Aska News claiming to show footage of Irma hitting the Caribbean has more than 100,00 views on YouTube.
It’s from 2014.
That amazing photo of Irma from space is actually Harvey
This tweet certainly does show an impressive, terrifying hurricane:
Except, as the ever-watchful Pic Pedant flagged, the hurricane shown here is Harvey. Astronaut Jack Fischer took the photo from the International Space Station on August 25:
A viral map claiming that Irma would hit Houston is fake
On Sept. 1, the National Weather Service sent out a warning to be on the lookout for fake forecasts, impersonating those that come from experts:
As it turns out, they had a very good reason to warn about this. A fake map showing Irma making a beeline for Houston had tens of thousands of shares on Facebook. The now-deleted post claimed, “Everyone needs to pay attention to Hurricane Irma. She’s predicted to come through Mexico, hit us and everything in between up to Houston. She’s already a Category 2 and hasn’t even got into warm water yet.”
Irma became a Category 3 hurricane at the time, and was strengthening. But it was still too early then to tell much about where — or whether — it would hit the U.S. mainland.
The danger of Irma isn’t being intentionally exaggerated by a liberal forecaster conspiracy to push a pro-climate change agenda
On Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh weighed in on Hurricane Irma — specifically, forecasts predicting potentially catastrophic damage in Florida. His remarks prompted a bunch of headlines implying that Limbaugh had suggested Irma itself was a “liberal hoax.” Although that’s a bit of an exaggeration of what Limbaugh said, his remarks do still propagate a myth about Irma forecasts that’s being picked up in some conservative circles.
Limbaugh’s core accusation is that, essentially, weather forecasters have a liberal bias, and that they intentionally exaggerate major weather events such as Irma to scare people into believing in climate change. Here’s part of what he said in some pretty lengthy remarks about Irma:
Now, my theory — and it’s only a theory — is that because of the biases, because of the politicization of everything, because you have people in all of these government areas who believe man is causing climate change, and they’re hellbent on proving it, they’re hellbent on demonstrating it, they’re hellbent on persuading people of it. So here comes a hurricane that’s 10 to 12 days out and here come the initial model runs, and if it’s close — sometimes it’s not close, sometimes the hurricane will turn to the north out in the Mid-Atlantic and there’s no way you can fake that. But if, if they are going to approach a hit on the U.S., you will note that early tracks always have them impacting a major population center.
This is not what’s happening. Irma is a Category 5 storm, one of the strongest ever witnessed in the Atlantic. It was already life threatening for those who live on the islands hit directly. If predictions sounded dire to him, it was because of the potential — and proven — extent of destruction this storm is capable of producing.
On Thursday, Limbaugh told his listeners that he was evacuating his Palm Beach mansion in advance of Irma’s approach.
Irma is not a ‘Category 6’ hurricane, and it won’t become one.
Irma is a massive storm, a life-threatening monster of a hurricane.
But Irma is not a “Category 6″ hurricane, it was not a “Category 6″ hurricane, and it won’t become one. There’s no such thing as a “Category 6″ hurricane.
The origin of this myth seems to be a blog post by Michel Snyder, whom Snopes describes as an “end-time enthusiast.” Snyder’s article, on The Economic Collapse, was headlined “Category 6? If Hurricane Irma Becomes The Strongest Hurricane In History, It Could Wipe Entire Cities Off The Map.” It didn’t explicitly say that Irma was a Category 6 hurricane, but the headline and article implied that it could — or should — be. The article has been shared on Facebook more than 55,000 times.
That article was then reposted at the Freedom Outpost, with the same headline, and shared on Facebook 40,000 more times. The Clarion-Ledger spotted a good, old-fashioned fake news post from a CNN spoof site claiming that “HURRICANE IRMA could be a category 6 by the time it hits east coast.”
Also, there’s this:
Although meteorologists have discussed adding a Category 6 to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale over the years, such an addition isn’t imminent, nor is it being newly considered in any significant way. The scale measures storms from 1 to 5, based on wind speed. Irma is a Category 5, which already means that it is capable of inflicting “catastrophic” damage.
To put this in viral headline terminology, Irma isn’t such a monster storm that scientists were scrambling to create a new category to describe it.
A 2005 miniseries called ‘Category 7’ does not prove that hurricanes Harvey and Irma are just part of a big conspiracy theory
There’s a meme going around claiming that a 2005 miniseries, “Category 7,” tells the story of two hurricanes that just happen to be named Harvey and Irma. In the miniseries, the two hurricanes threaten to end the world.
The copy-paste meme has been circulating on Facebook to promote a conspiracy theory about Hollywood, the media, and the federal government:
So first off, the hurricanes in the movie aren’t named Harvey and Irma. And it wasn’t broadcast 11 years and nine months ago.
Snopes has done a good and thorough job of debunking this particular meme, along with the bizarre conspiracy theory that Irma and Harvey are “predictive programming” engineered by several powerful groups to attack Americans.
The shark pic is still probably fake
This is a warning. If you see a picture of a shark swimming down a highway in the wake of Irma, be wary. It’s one of the most popular fake photo genres to emerge after major flooding, and the photo you’re seeing is almost certainly photoshopped.
Here’s one from Harvey, for reference:
You can read more about this particular hoax here.
Update 9/11: And, as was inevitable, this shark picture has appeared and started to go viral on Twitter. The tweet below had more than 1,000 retweets as of noon on Monday.
Among those retweeting it: a New York Times reporter, who later tweeted that she thought everyone knew it was fake.
Also, Irma does not contain sharks
I’m still not entirely convinced that this particular image has actually fooled anyone. But since it was sent to me twice in the past hour — and has more than 20,000 shares on Facebook — I’ll bite.
There’s a viral image going around that vaguely looks like a TV screenshot reading: “Breaking news — Irma Now Contains Sharks.” It’s fake, and no Irma does not contain sharks.
Even without my beautiful art telling you so, it’s easy to tell this isn’t a genuine screenshot. The image has a watermark for breakyourownnews.com, which is a fake TV news screenshot generator.
This post, first published on Wednesday morning, has been updated multiple times, and will continue to update. I’ve also written through this post to remove outdated information about Irma’s path. Please send any potential hoaxes we’ve missed our way, and we’ll check them out.