VERA FILES FACT CHECK: FB post on Taal eruption MISLEADS with photos from other countries

Hours after Taal volcano spewed ash and steam on Jan. 12, a netizen published a misleading Facebook (FB) post that mixed actual images of the eruption with past volcanic activities in other countries.

The post, published by a netizen who describes himself as a “front desk clerk” at a government agency in his FB profile, featured seven photos supposedly of the volcanic eruption happening live. Shared by over 500 people, his post bore the caption: “Lakas…Galit Na Galit Ang Bulkang Taal… Alert No.4 Na As Of 6:27 PM, Ayon Sa PHIVOLCS.. At Patuloy Ang Pagyanig/Lindol (Powerful… Very angry Taal volcano… Already on Alert No. 4 as of 6:27 PM according to PHIVOLCS… Earthquakes continue).”

The post carried three graphic photos that show big plumes of gas and red-hot lava shooting out of a volcano’s mouth. These are not from Taal; they are from Nicaragua and Guatemala eruptions.

A reverse image search shows that one of them is a cropped version of the photo of Momotombo volcano exploding on Dec. 2, 2015 in Nicaragua, captured by Associated Press photographer Esteban Felix.

The other photo, grabbed from an international event and uploaded twice, is a Getty Images stock photo of the Jan. 3, 2009 eruption of the Santiaguito volcano in Guatemala.

The rest of the images in the online posts were indeed from Taal’s Jan. 12 eruption, among them photos of the volcano with rising gas columns in the early afternoon taken by the Tagaytay City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, uploaded on their official FB page, and a netizen’s photo of lightning hitting the gas column.

The netizen published the misleading post the same day Taal unleashed its fury in a phreatic explosion, which has since escalated into alert level no. 4 status which the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology says could mean a “hazardous eruption” is imminent. This has prompted thousands of residents to evacuate the area, while ash and other volcanic material in the air led to the cancellation of flights to and from Manila, and the suspension of classes and work in parts of southern and central Luzon and the National Capital Region.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)