VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Netizen mixes current and outdated Australia fire photos in MISLEADING FB post

A netizen misleadingly used photos of the aftermath of past bushfires in Australia in a Jan. 3 Facebook (FB) post about the ongoing blazes razing the country.

Asking for prayers for residents affected by the bushfires, which have been going on around the country since September 2019, a netizen uploaded 18 images mostly showing evacuees, fleeing animals, and burnt property and land. The post was shared over 14,000 times.

Three images, two of which were the most prominent, were from bushfires in southern Australia in 2013 and 2014.

A reverse image search shows that the first and second photos in the set, featuring a family taking refuge under a jetty on a lake, were from a January 2013 report by The Independent about a bushfire in Tasmania state.

The fifth uploaded photo, which can also be seen on the FB post’s landing page, of land being ravaged by fire is from a January 2014 report by British online wine magazine Decanter on a bushfire that affected a winery in South Australia.

The first photo sourced from The Independent separately received over 1,600 FB interactions, the most among the 18 photos uploaded by the netizen.

Fourteen of the remaining 15 photos indeed featured scenes from the ongoing blazes in Australia.

From recent fires in Australia

Note: Click on the photos to view their original source

One last photo, which shows a non-functioning aircraft in the middle of a forest, could not be traced. However, a photo of what seems to be the same plane during a different time places it to be in East Sale, Australia. There was no mention of the aircraft having any connection with the bushfires.

The misleading post was published as fires continued to ravage parts of Australia, killing at least 27 people and an estimated 480 million animals. The country experiences what is called a fire season every summer due mostly to natural causes but the current blaze that began last September is said to be the worst in decades.

Earlier this month, VERA Files Fact Check flagged a similar post that misleadingly included outdated and out-of-context photos in a FB post about animals affected by the Australia bushfires. (See: VERA FILES FACT CHECK: FB posts MISLEAD by mixing photos of animals killed and hurt in current and past fires in Australia)

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


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