BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – A photo of a “Boardman tornado” was recently shared more than 1,500 times on Facebook.
The problem is — it’s fake.
Lori Greenwalt, whose post made it all the way to the National Weather Service, said she saw the photo on a friends page. She then posted it to her own page and it took off.
“Once I posted it, it was too late” Greenwalt said. “Even if I were to take it off, it still is out there. …I think people were a little bit afraid and kind of curious and wondering what was going on.”
The National Weather Service said this is a huge problem during severe weather.
“When you hear fake news or fake information, it makes people have a different reaction,” said Fred McMullen of National Weather Service in Pittsburgh. “And then from there it lessen’s credibility for future events that may bring the same severity of that initial photo.
“So we have to spend time researching, reverse image searching and making sure this is not an old photo that recirculated.”
It’s valuable minutes a forecaster spends fact-checking instead of focusing on the real severe weather.
WKBN searched for the picture on Google and the first one that pops up is the same picture of a Texas twister from 2015.
Experts say fake images get shared all the time.
“It really only takes two people, right, for the snowball effect to happen,” said Adam Earnheardt, Youngstown State Chair of Department of Communications. “So you have one person basically sharing a bogus piece of information — bogus video, bogus photo — and then someone to buy it.”
In this instance, it was Greenwalt and a thousand others who were the ones to buy into it.
“The person who put it out there said on Facebook that he was sorry and that he realized it was false,” Greenwalt said.
People today can post almost anything and get away with it.
“It’s always scares vs. shares,” McMullen said. “Because there are people out there that want to increase the number of followers on Facebook or social media or Instagram or whatever account — at the expense of alarming the public with information that is not true.”
So next time before you share, fact check before you click.