As Hurricane Ian pummeled southwest Florida on Sept. 28, 2022, a video circulated that supposedly showed an elephant seal stranded in the streets. But it’s old footage. Let’s look at the facts.
Miscaptioned content is frequently shared in the wake of natural disasters. Social media users are inundated with devastating images and videos, and purveyors of misinformation can easily mislabel old content and share it as new.
This misleading video was viewed more than 16 million times as it circulated on Twitter. It plays into a common misinformation practice of doctoring or miscaptioning images of animals turning up in unlikely places during major weather events. Other false images — such as an Orca on a flooded street or this well-worn photo of sharks swimming at the bottom of a set of escalators — also circulated in the wake of the storm.
Recognizing common misinformation patterns makes it easier to navigate breaking weather news events. When a video or photo goes viral that supposedly shows an animal in an unusual place, it can be debunked by double-checking the source, searching for related news items or doing a reverse-image search.
- “Did an Elephant Seal Crawl Through a Chilean Town?” (Dan Evon, Snopes [Note: Dan Evon now writes for The Sift]).
- “That video of a lost elephant seal is from Chile, 2020” (Tweet, @Hoaxeye).
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