VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Netizens FALSELY claim overseas eruption photos as Taal volcano explosion

Facebook (FB) posts which falsely claim photos of volcanic eruptions overseas to be those of Taal volcano’s recent explosions are currently making the rounds on the Web. The sharing of inaccurate information and erroneous photos followed the eruption of the Philippine volcano last week after a 43-year slumber.

On Jan. 12, a few hours after Taal spewed steam and ash in what is called a phreatic eruption, FB detected at least four netizens’ posts going viral. All of them showed photos of big gas and ash columns, and lava shooting out of a crater.

The images were not those of the volcano in Batangas province, but of previous eruptions in Nicaragua and Guatemala.

Two of the untrue posts, which advised the public to “be safe” and to pray for Taal volcano, actually featured a photo of Santiaguito volcano’s 2009 eruption in Guatemala by stock image provider Getty Images, and a 2015 Associated Press photo of the Momotombo eruption in Nicaragua taken by photographer Esteban Felix. The Getty Images photo was uploaded twice in both FB posts.

The two other incorrect online posts only published Getty Images’ photo of the Santiaguito eruption. One of the netizens falsely described the image as a “close-range shot” of the Taal volcano.

The false posts surfaced the same day the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised Taal’s volcanic activity to Alert Level 4 status, meaning “hazardous eruption” is imminent, following its explosion that day.

Contrary to the netizens’ claims in their posts, Taal volcano only began to spew lava on Jan. 13, a day after it expelled steam and ash that reached as far as Metro Manila and covered villages in the vicinity.

The false FB posts were collectively shared by over 3,200 netizens.

Last week, VERA Files Fact Check flagged a similar post that misled readers by mixing the Nicaragua and Guatemala photos with actual images of the Taal eruption. (SEE: VERA FILES FACT CHECK: FB post on Taal eruption MISLEADS with photos from other countries)

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