Misinformation in the wake of a disaster: Morocco earthquake fact check roundup

Misinformation in the wake of a disaster: Morocco earthquake fact check roundup

By: sam doak&
September 13 2023

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Misinformation in the wake of a disaster: Morocco earthquake fact check roundup

Aftermath of an earthquake in Talat N'Yaaqoub, Morocco, September 12, 2023 (Source: Reuters)

On September 8, 2023, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck Morocco, North Africa. The quake, which occurred at around 11.11 p.m. local time, is the deadliest in the country for over 60 years, with a death toll of over 2,800 as of September 12. 

Several factors exacerbated the severity of this disaster. The earthquake's magnitude was sufficiently high to cause significant destruction; however, its occurrence at night, when many people would be inside and unable to respond, likely contributed to the high number of casualties. Speaking to outlets, including National Geographic, experts have also cited the relative fragility of the built structures in the areas affected, in which earthquakes of this severity are exceptionally rare

As frequently occurs in the wake of natural disasters, many false and misleading narratives have circulated online following the earthquake in Morocco. In recent days, Logically Facts has identified numerous misattributed videos, conspiracy theories, and other falsehoods that have been widely shared by social media users.   

2022 video from Morocco shared as building collapsing in recent earthquake

Screenshots of users on X sharing misattributed videos of a building collapsing (Source: X/Altered by Logically Facts)

One of the most widely-shared videos circulating in recent days shows a three-story building collapsing at night. Recorded in an urban area that closely resembles the neighborhoods affected on Friday evening, the video’s resemblance to genuine footage of the recent earthquake led many social media users to mistakenly believe it was filmed during this event. 

Through a reverse image search, Logically Facts determined that this footage is actually from December 2022. According to media coverage published at the time, the building shown was situated in Casablanca. No casualties were reported following its collapse. 

Read the fact-check by Ankita Kulkarni here

A video of a building collapsing in 2020 has been misattributed to the recent earthquake in Morocco

A post on X containing a misattributed video of a building collapsing. (Source: X/Altered by Logically Facts)

Similarly, a second video of a collapsing building was shared widely in the days following the earthquake. As with the first, it shows a multi-story residential building crumbling and falling in what appears to be an urban area. 

By searching for other instances in which this video has circulated, Logically Facts determined that it was recorded on August 5, 2020, in Casablanca. This incident, which caused the death of one person, was widely covered by local media at the time. 

Read the fact-check by Sam Doak here.

Video of a building collapsing in Turkey shared as Morocco earthquake footage

Logically Facts found users on X claiming a video filmed in Turkey was recorded during the earthquakes in Morocco. (Source: X/Altered by Logically Facts)

While some viral misattributed videos were filmed in Morocco, others were recorded further afield. Following the earthquake, a particularly dramatic clip showing the collapse of a high-rise building went viral after being shared by numerous users on X and YouTube. 

While users claimed that this footage was captured in Morocco, Logically Facts found that it was filmed in Turkey on February 10, 2023. Context found on related posts reveals that it shows the demolition of a building that was damaged during a severe earthquake that affected Turkey earlier in the year. 

Read the fact-check by Vivek J here.

Drone footage from Turkey shared as aftermath of Morocco earthquake

Screenshot of social media posts claiming to show drone footage of earthquake. (Source: X/Altered by Logically Facts)

Among the viral videos that circulated after the earthquake was a compilation of clips filmed from a drone. The aerial footage painted a grim picture of the destruction caused during the disaster, showing heavily damaged buildings and city streets in disarray. While this video was shared widely, Logically Facts found that the clips it is composed of were not filmed in Morocco.

As with many of the misattributed videos that were shared in the wake of last week’s earthquake, it was actually filmed in Turkey. Logically Facts uncovered earlier uploads of the same clips, which clarified that they were filmed in locations across the country, showing the effects of the earthquake that occurred in February. 

Read the fact-check by Rajini KG here.

Media outlets share old images as visuals of 2023 Morocco earthquake

Screenshots of news reports showing misattributed footage from a separate incident. (Source: Facebook/Altered by Logically Facts)

In its earthquake coverage, Assamese news outlet Da News Plus shared a series of visuals showing what they claimed was the destruction caused by this disaster. 

In tracking down the original context of these images, Logically Facts found that a video of a wrecked shipyard was recorded in Japan on March 12, 2011. Likewise, an image of a car surrounded by rubble was from the earthquake that affected Turkey in February. A cropped version of a photograph that had previously been described as showing the aftermath of a 2010 earthquake in Chile was also included.  

Read the fact-check by Anurag Baruah here.

Video of baby being rescued in India shared as footage following Moroccan quake

A particularly dramatic video that was shared following the earthquake shows an infant being rescued after being buried under earth and rubble. Captioned, “Here, a newborn baby is dug out of the debris after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake devastates Morocco,” this footage was widely shared in the days after the disaster. 

Given the nature of this video, it is not difficult to see why it went viral when presented as footage from Morocco. However, Logically Facts found that it was recorded in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on September 9, 2023.

Read the fact-check by Umme Kulsum here.

The earthquake in Morocco was the result of the movement of tectonic plates, not HAARP

Following natural disasters, conspiracy theorists frequently disregard established causes and allege that HAARP (High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program), an American research program that studies the ionosphere, is to blame. Under such narratives, HAARP is actually an initiative designed to weaponize the weather and other natural systems under the direction of the U.S. government.  

While many on social media have claimed that the earthquake in Morocco was intentionally caused using HAARP, Logically Facts has determined that this is not the case. This natural disaster was caused by the movement of tectonic plates, and the technology used by the program’s researchers is incapable of causing earthquakes. 

Read the fact-check by Christian Haag here.

CGI video shared as ‘mysterious lightning’ striking Morocco before earthquake

Screenshots of social media posts claiming to show “mysterious lights” before earthquake (Source: X/Altered by Logically Facts)

As narratives relating to HAARP became prevalent, social media users began sharing dubious clips showing what they claimed to be strange lights in the sky above Morocco in the hours preceding the earthquake. A particularly viral example, showing a flashing column of light described as “mysterious lightning,” was used to suggest that the causes of the disaster differed from those offered by scientists and experts.

In truth, this particular video was not filmed in Morocco in the moments before the earthquake. Logically Facts found that it has been circulating online since 2020 and that its original context makes it clear that it was created using CGI. 

Read the fact-check by Vivek J here.

No, Cristiano Ronaldo’s hotel in Marrakech is not hosting earthquake victims

One of the more attention-grabbing viral claims that circulated in the days after the earthquake was that footballer Christiano Ronaldo had opened his hotel in Marrakech to survivors of the disaster. 

While this narrative was repeated by numerous news outlets, including the Daily Express, Logically Facts has determined that it is false. There is no record of such an offer by Ronaldo or his representatives. Speaking to the French publication Libération, the hotel in question described the story as “false information,” stating, “All the customers we have at the moment have made a reservation normally.”

Read the fact-check by Arron Williams here.

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