Fake Hurricane Irma videos are getting tens of millions of views on Facebook

Posted at 2:50 PM, Sep 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-07 14:50:38-04

Videos and live streams described as showing the effects of Hurricane Irma are racking up tens of millions of views on Facebook. But they aren’t of Irma, and they aren’t live.

One stream, described as “shocking video” of Irma, has more than 6 million views and more than 160,000 shares on the platform, with hundreds of comments from concerned viewers. “Blessings to everyone over there,” said one commenter.

Although the stream was tagged “live” Wednesday morning on Facebook, it was actually video that was at least 9 months old. The video is only about three minutes long but was set on a loop. The stream remained “live” for over two hours.

Latest updates: Hurricane Irma | Tropical Storm Jose | Tropical Storm Katia 

CNN has not confirmed the original source of the video, but versions of it appeared online as early as December 2016 and were characterized as showing a bus flipping over during Cyclone Vardah in India.

The video’s virality may have been helped by the fact it appeared on a verified Facebook page named “Carlos Trewher.”

“We apply the blue verification badge to eligible brands, media organizations and public figures. Eligibility for the blue verification badge is based on a variety of factors, such as account completeness, policy compliance and public interest,” Facebook says on its website.

CNN reached out to the Facebook page’s administrator and the social accounts linked from the page. The website linked from the page is no longer active.

The “live stream” was removed from Facebook on Wednesday afternoon.

However, another video, posted Tuesday and described as showing Hurricane Irma reaching the island of Barbuda in the Caribbean, was still being shared widely on the platform on Wednesday. The video, posted on a Facebook profile, had more than 20 million views and more than 600,000 shares, but it does not show Hurricane Irma.

CNN has not confirmed the original source of the video, but versions of it were posted online as early as May 2016.

CNN has reached out to Facebook for comment.

Fake forecasts, fake categories

But that’s not all of the fake stuff that’s coming out of this storm. There’s that dramatic photo making the rounds on Twitter which purports to show damage at Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten, with wreckage and debris on top of planes. That’s actually a photo from 2014 of damage in Los Cabos, Mexico after Hurricane Odile.

There’s also chilling video online of a building collapsing into raging floodwaters in St. Maarten. But that video is actually from a storm in Tibet.

Lots of fake weather forecasts, allegedly from the National Weather Service, are swirling around on social media, too. There are so many that the weather service put out a warning on Facebook, showing people what official weather forecasts look like and noting that real NWS forecasts are only for five days, not 10 like in the fake ones.

Irma, as a Category 5 hurricane, is one of the strongest storms ever seen in the Atlantic, but it’s not a Category 6 storm, because such a designation doesn’t exist, despite what your friends and family might be sharing on social media.

Nathan Scott, a meteorologist at CNN affiliate WAPT in Jackson, Mississippi, reminded his followers on Facebook of this and urged them to use trusted sources for information about the hurricane.

The National Hurricane Center uses the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which ranks storms from Category 1 (sustained winds up to 95 mph) up to Category 5 (sustained winds of 157 mph or higher). Irma, which has kept its sustained winds at 185 mph or more for over 24 hours, definitely qualifies as a Category 5, but it’s not Category 6.