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Australia fires: Misleading images & pictures go viral

posted 7 Jan 2020, 20:45 by Happi Mess   [ updated 8 Jan 2020, 18:03 ]

Bogus, misleading bushfire images do rounds on social media 

The report

Tammy Holmes and her grandchildren in 2013, left, and a photoshopped image of a girl with a koala.

They are images that stir emotions, opening hearts and sometimes purse strings: a girl in a lake, surrounded by bushfires, clinging to a koala, or a satellite image showing a continent ablaze. Only problem is, they are not real.

The proliferation of bogus or misleading images and claims about the current bushfire crisis doing the rounds on social media range from the silly to the sinister.

They are creating headaches for responsible news outlets, work for image-verifying services, anger from fire victims and concern from law-enforcement agencies.

Tammy Holmes and her grandchildren during bushfires in Tasmania in 2013.

“We are seeing a huge amount of misinformation relating to these fires,” said Stephanie Hunt, Australian editor of Storyful, which sources, verifies and analyses social media content for local and international news outlets.

As well as the bogus, Hunt said, some of the images social media users — including some celebrities — are circulating as evidence of the current horrors are in fact from earlier bushfires.

For example, a video widely posted on social media sites in recen­t days showing a dramatic collision between fire trucks is from the 2015 Pinery fire in South Australia.

South Australia’s Pinery fire in 2015.

Hunt said the video was shared by personalities including Nine Network sports presenter Erin Molan and former rugby player Wendell Sailor, accumulating tens of thousands of views on each ­occasion in a relatively short time.

Many, doubtless including Molan and Sailor, were innocently posting or reposting such images, but Hunt urged people to do what they could to check the origins of the material before posting.

“You can do a Google image search but also generally if something looks too good to be true, it often is, so don’t just share something without thinking about where it’s come from,” she said.

There are several examples of maps or even apparent satellite images being posted that vastly exaggerate the scale of the fires.

A viral photo that looks like a NASA shot of Australia.

One such image on Facebook has now been marked with a warning from the social media giant’s new fact-check feature, warning that it is “false information”. Another map tweeted by the US ABC network exaggerates the area ­affected by fire. “A superimposed map of Australia over the US shows the scale of the massive wildfires that have spread across the country,’’ ABC News tweeted.

America's ABC News tweeted this exaggerated map “showing the scale of the fires’’. Picture: Twitter

Other material is far more serious, including scams fraudulently seeking to extract money from people for victims.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission is receiving dozens of bushfire scam reports­ daily, and warns of more to come. “Scams are fairly widespread and that will only get worse,” said ACCC chairman Rod Sims. “So far we’ve seen scams where people are contacting individuals to get them to donate.

“I’m expecting we’re going to get scams where people present themselves as insurers or ­emergency relief providers and then through that seek to get people’s bank account details and take money out of their account­s. “We’ve had 20 reports of scams today (Tuesday). We’ve had ­Twitter crowd-funding scams, phone call scams, people being approach­ed over the web, and one where relatives of a man who died were supposedly setting up a crowd-funding site and that was fake.”

That last scam — in which fraudsters hijacked images, names and a social media account — caught out friends of NSW bushfire victims Robert and Patrick Salway by sending them a Messenger request for donations.

One who fell for the scam was Canberra woman Renee Payne, who had a past link with the family­. Her criminologist husband, Jason Payne, said people’s compassion made them vulnerable at such times.

“My wife was one of about 48 people who received the message sent out to those who knew the Salways,” said Dr Payne. “It seems legitimate if it comes through to you with the apparent social endorsement of your friendship group. My wife responded in a compassio­nate way to what appeare­d to be a genuine request and immediately made a donation. It was the right thing to do; just the wrong site to do it through.

“I think there is quite a good likelihood that as a community we become less protective of ourselves­ at these times.”

While scammers’ motivation is clearly financial, false claims and conspiracy theories being pushed on social media — including that the fires were deliberately lit to clear a path for a high-speed rail link, and that the firefighter who gave Scott Morrison a mouthful faces dismissal — may be politically motiv­ated. However, Dr Payne said criminologists were yet to fathom why some would doctor­ or misrepresent ­images without a cash motive.

People wanting to donate to bushfire victims can do so safely by checking their chosen charity is registered at the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission site acnc.gov.au/charity.


Artist's visualisation misinterpreted

One image shared widely by Twitter users, including by singer Rihanna, was interpreted as a map showing the live extent of fire spread, with large sections of the Australian coastline molten-red and fiery.

But it is actually artist Anthony Hearsey's visualisation of one month of data of locations where fire was detected, collected by Nasa's Fire Information for Resource Management System.

"The scale is a little exaggerated due to the render's glow, but it is generally true to the info from the Nasa website. Also note that not all the areas are still burning, and this is a compilation," Mr Hearsey wrote on Instagram in response to criticism by viewers that the image was misleading.
Misleading symbols

Another widely shared map of flame icons dotted across the country claims to show "all the fires burning in Australia".

It is taken from the Australian government website MyFireWatch, which uses satellite data to map heat sources.

However the data incorporates "any heat source that is hotter than its surroundings... This may include gas flares, refinery furnaces or highly reflective large industrial roofs", according to its website.

That means that the symbols are not guaranteed to indicate actual fires.

Another issue is that the hotspot symbols do not represent the actual size of fires or the danger posed by them.

Screenshots of maps shared on social media like this often omit important details from the originals, such as the level of risk posed by fire and whether it is under control.

Image copyright New South Wales Rural Fire Service; MyFireWatchImage caption In contrast to MyFireWatch maps (left), blue symbols on New South Wales Rural Fire Service maps (right) give 'Advice' warnings, indicating no immediate danger

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service publishes live mapped fire information, using symbols to indicate the alert level from "advice" (no immediate danger) to "emergency warning".

On 7 January, the red and orange fire symbols in the MyFireWatch map of New South Wales (NSW) are all ranked as "advice" alerts by the NSW rural fire service.

Media captionAustralia fires: "Nothing left" for animals that survive

As some Twitter users pointed out, maps that claim to show the size of the affected area by "overlaying" Australia on to other continents like North America and Europe are not completely accurate.

Image Copyright @Sci_Phile @Sci_Phile

This is due to how how the curved earth is distorted when flat map projections are made.
How BBC News made maps of Australia fires

BBC News produced a visual guide to the fires, which uses a range of data sources to produce maps and other visualisations.

To produce the map of fires, BBC journalists used Python code to extract geographic data from the live fire maps produced by the NSW and Victoria fire services.

"This allows us to plot the complicated fire area shapes quickly on to more basic maps. We've been updating it every one-to-two days while the fires have been at their height and will continue to do so as long as the crisis lasts," data journalist Tom Housden explained.

The BBC's visualisations also used Nasa's fire data to map how the fires spread.

Nasa told the BBC that although its data is collected by satellites that detect heat, including non-fire hotspots like gas flares, these sources account for "less than 1% of the data"

what base

Arson based not Climate based

the Australian Bushfires caused by Arson not Climate  - nearly 200 arrests
and there's more refer video

Weather Control Admission by government sources! (this is HIGHLY important because IF there is climate change, then agents of GOVERNMENT are causing it! If this is the case (and it is) then why are the Gretas, Jennifers and AOCs of the world telling us to fork our money over to the very ones CREATING the problem. It's all a SCAM!

Breaking News



Police Warn Marxist Anti-Scomo Marches Will Drain Fire Resources

climate change study from 12 years ago warned of this horror bushfire season

If you only knew about CHICKEN SALT .. lol 

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