Too much misleading news on social media about the devastating earthquake in Turkiye and Syria in the early hours of Monday morning prompted the government in Ankara to disable Twitter before agreeing with the company to tackle fake news.
The earthquake has killed at least 15,000 people and the death toll continues to rise as rescue workers continue to search for survivors under the rubble.
While the rescue teams were rushing to the affected areas in Turkiye and northern Syria, those promoting misinformation and misleading news took advantage of the global focus on the tragedy to issue misleading news items in order to boost their “likes” on social media. Journalists at AFP have tried to refute a number of them.
Among the images in circulation are some alleged to show the panic in the streets of Nablus in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday night following a tremor that struck the Palestinian territories. However, the images used were actually from 2017 and were taken on the eve of Eid Al-Fitr.
Some social media accounts also circulated a video clip that was said to show tsunamis hitting the Turkish coast after the earthquake. The reality is that it was footage of a storm that hit the coast of South Africa in 2017. A similar claim was made about footage of a storm in San Diego, California.
Another “earthquake” image was of a dog which got more than 1.5 million views on Twitter. However, analysis showed that it has been on the Internet since 2018, and it is part of a group of pictures taken by a Czech photographer.
One picture posted on social media and local news sites in the Middle East was said to be of a Syrian child crying alone in the rubble. However, journalists from the AFP fact-checking service found the same image on Shutterstock among a group of staged photos. Video clips of buildings shaking and collapsing dated back to a 2011 earthquake in Japan.
Turkiye’s Presidency of Migration Management announced on Wednesday that 202 account holders who published inciteful posts about the earthquake on social media platforms had been identified. Eighteen people have been arrested.