Bleats

Here’s Why The Bogus Bushfire News Hitting Social Media Is So Harmful

There's so much misinformation out there right now.

Devastating fires have been ravaging major parts of Australia for months now, and whilst the crisis has highlighted how generous and supportive our community can be, it has also shone a light on the more heinous side of society and how harmful it is to spread misinformation.

Over the past week, bot and troll accounts have blamed Australia’s bushfire crisis on “fire bugs” and have repeatedly labelled it an “arson epidemic,” or “arson emergency,” according to The Guardian.

Dr Timothy Graham, a senior lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, has analysed the claims on Twitter and using a bot detection tool found that there is likely a “current disinformation campaign” on the #arsonemergency hashtag. 

Whilst arson is an issue in Australia, there’s no denying the facts when it comes to our current crisis. The Bureau of Meteorology has stated that climate change is “influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions” and it is expected to worsen in years to come.

“We are suffering the consequences in terms of hyped up polarisation and an increased difficulty in inability for citizens to discern truth,” Dr Graham told The Guardian. “The conspiracy theories going around (including arson as the main cause of the fires) reflect an increased distrust in scientific expertise, scepticism of the media, and rejection of liberal democratic authority.”

Even Donald Trump Jr jumped on fake bushfire news after The Australian published an article claiming that “more than 180 alleged arsonists” had been arrested since the start of the bushfire season. 

Sadly, claims of an “arson epidemic” isn’t the only bogus bushfire news making the rounds on social media right now. According to BBC, a map which went viral after being shared by Rihanna, is actually artist Anthony Hearsey’s “visualisation of one month of data of locations where fire was detected” collected by NASA. 

Another map, showing “all the fires burning in Australia” was taken from the government website MyFireWatch, but also includes “any heat source that is hotter than its surroundings” so isn’t completely accurate. 

Even social media users who are “overlaying” maps of Australia on to other countries to show the size and scale of the fires aren’t totally correct because they fail to take into account “how curved the earth is distorted when flat map projections are made,” according to the BBC.

But, there’s even more. News.com.au has reported that many of the viral images and videos floating around social media are from past events. For example, a video of fire trucks colliding colliding – which was shared by sports presenter Erin Molan and former rugby player Wendell Sailor – is actually footage from a 2015 event in South Australia. 

It’s incredible to see how far and wide the news of Australia’s bushfire crisis has spread. However, it becomes problematic when fake bushfire news or misinformation begins to spread – and even worse when it is reposted by a celebrity or social media user with a substantial following who take it as gospel. 

The consequence here is that when fake bushfire news spreads, it could influence behaviours and attitudes – possibly detracting from bigger issues like climate change, and even putting people in harm’s way. 

We’re living in a digital age where information – whether right or wrong – can spread at an alarming rate. This makes it more important than ever to keep asking questions, check multiple sources and don’t take anything at face value.

Michael Moore Seems To Think He’s The Man To Stop WW3 With Trump And Iran

"Leave this up to me."

There’s chiming in to a serious conversation you’re definitely not a part of, and then there’s Michael Moore thinking he’s going to stop World War III between Trump and Iran with an Instagram DM.

The filmmaker took to Instagram yesterday to let his followers know he had sent Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei a personal appeal “asking him not to respond to our assassination of his top General with violence of any kind.”

“I recorded and DM’d him a message on my podcast, ‘RUMBLE,’” Moore captioned this post. “When the Ayatollah responds, I’ll post his reply.”

In his message, Moore asked Iran’s leader to “leave this up me, give me all of 10 months and I and millions of Americans will remove Trump from the White House.” 

As much as Moore’s efforts are undoubtedly appreciated, I’m not entirely sure an American filmmaker is going to be the catalyst for change here – and the same sentiment is shared on social media. 

Last week, Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful commander, was killed in a drone strike authorised by Donald Trump. According to the president, Soleimani “was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations.” In another tweet, he said the U.S. has “targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago).”

A spokesperson for Iran’s armed forces has since responded to the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, claiming that Iran “will set up a plan, patiently, to respond to this terrorist act in a crushing and powerful manner,” leading many to believe they are on the cusp on World War III.

Various Iranian and American politicians have condemned Trump’s decision to wage war on Iran, and some have even labelled him “a terrorist in a suit.”

The whole thing is one huge mess, and it sounds like it’s going to take far more than an Instagram DM from Michael Moore to make it all go away. 

Watch this space.

Scott Morrison Forcing Bushfire Victims To Shake His Hand Is Peak Cringe

This is so hard to watch.

As bushfires continue to ravage major parts of Australia, destroying homes and even taking lives, the tension between the communities affected and Prime Minister Scott Morrison as reached an all-time high.

Credit: AAP Image/Sean Davey)

Footage has emerged of the PM visiting Cobargo, an area located on the South Coast of NSW which was hit by the deadly New Year’s Eve fires that killed local father and son Robert and Patrick Salway. 

At one point, Scott Morrison asks to shake the hand of a local woman who says, “I’m only shaking your hand if you give more funding to our RFS.” In response, the PM forces the woman to shake his hand and then turns his back on her when she continued to ask for his help.

In another part of the video, Morrison is seen attempting to shake the hand of a firefighter, who tells him, “I don’t really want to shake your hand.” The PM is heard saying, “Oh, well. Nice to see you.” Later, he was heard telling an official, “Tell that fella I’m really sorry, I’m sure he’s just tired,” to which an incident controller responds, “No, no, he’s lost a house.”

Morrison was quick to walk away when angry Cobargo residents hurled abuse at him, and he’s receiving just as much sympathy on social media. 

Earlier this week, Scott Morrison copped criticism when he hosted the annual reception for the Australian and New Zealand cricket sides at Kirribilli House and said the fires would happen “against the backdrop of this test match.”

It’s safe to say Morrison’s comments didn’t go down well, with many claiming it’s not an appropriate time to be celebrating cricket in the midst of a bushfire crisis.

Responding to backlash received from Cobargo residents and social media over the hand shake, Morrison told radio station 3AW that he knows “people are angry” with him. “All I know is that they are hurting, and it’s my job to try and offer some comfort and support.”

“That’s my job, I don’t take these things personally, why would I?” he added.

One thing is for certain, and that is with a rising death toll and hundreds of homes and communities lost to these fires, comfort and support doesn’t come in the form of a forced hand shake.

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