A video claiming that a house was blown away during Typhoon Hinnamnor went viral on social media. That’s not quite what happened. Let’s look at the facts.
Miscaptioning old but dramatic footage is a proven way to generate engagement on social media. In addition to people’s penchant for sharing sensational images that emerge during natural disasters, miscaptioned footage has the benefit of “exclusivity,” since credible news outlets typically don’t use these images before verifying them. This creates a perfect recipe for mislabeled social media content to go viral.
Mislabeled and misleading videos have two notable and negative impacts on online discourse. They give people a false impression of reality. Yes, Typhoon Hinnamnor caused devastation in Japan and Korea, but this video does not accurately depict what happened. And when these videos go viral, they amplify untrustworthy accounts and create larger audiences for them. Social media algorithms pick up on the increased engagement and further raise their profile. With larger followings, the accounts can be repurposed to sell products or to spread more misinformation.
While it is tempting to jump into the fray and share viral content during fast-moving news events, it is important to do some quick verification work first. A reverse image search revealed that this video was several years old. Additionally, a quick check showed that the account primarily shared videos of cheerleaders before scoring this viral hit. In other words, it likely was not the most trustworthy source for breaking news information.
- “Video shows Typhoon Jebi destroying Japan rooftop structure, not Typhoon Hinnamnor” (Kyu-seok Shim, AFP South Korea).
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