By: Umme Kulsum
September 12 2023
Two different images have been digitally photoshopped to spread a false narrative.
What’s the claim?
The U.S. state of Hawaii (locally spelled Hawai’i) recently suffered the nation’s deadliest wildfires, which broke out on August 8, 2023, and resulted in the deaths of over 100 people. The fires have been a focus of online misinformation. One recent post features a photo claiming that police have arrested Maui locals who have visited their homes 30 days since the devastating fires.
An X user (formerly Twitter) named Matt Wallace, a far-right social media personality shared an image showing five police officers arresting a woman with burned cars and damaged buildings in the background, suggesting the aftermath of a fire. Matt Wallace has promoted misinformation online about the Hawaii wildfires previously, debunked by Logically Facts.
The post is captioned, “THEY ARE STILL ARRESTING PEOPLE FOR VISITING THEIR OWN HOMES IN MAUI 31 DAYS AFTER THE FIRES AND THE MEDIA BAN REMAINS ACTIVE WHAT ARE THEY TRYING SO HARD TO HIDE!?!.” The post was viewed over 2 million times and shared 2,900 times at the time of writing. The same image is also viral on Facebook.
Screenshot of a claim made online (Source: Facebook/Screenshot)
However, the image is edited and does not show native Hawaiians being forcibly removed and arrested.
What we found
Logically Facts conducted a reverse image search and found the same image depicting police officers apprehending a woman who is seen lying on the ground, published in 2019 by Honolulu Civil Beat, a local publication in the U.S. state of Hawaii. The image was credited to Cory Lum, a staff photographer for Civil Beat. The original image does not show the aftermath of the fires in the background, but a car park, power lines, and healthy trees.
Comparison of the original image from 2019 and the viral image
(Source: Honolulu Civil Beat, X/Screenshots)
The background of burned cars in the viral image is indeed from the Maui fires. We found an image with striking similarities on Getty Images that AFP photographer Paula Ramon captured on August 11, 2023. The description read, “Burned cars and destroyed buildings are pictured in the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, western Maui, Hawaii on August 11, 2023. A wildfire that left Lahaina in charred ruins has killed at least 55 people, authorities said on August 10, making it one of the deadliest disasters in the US state's history. Brushfires on Maui, fueled by high winds from Hurricane Dora passing to the south of Hawaii, broke out August 8 and rapidly engulfed Lahaina.”
The background has been digitally added to an unrelated image of a woman being arrested by police in Maui.
According to a fact check by PolitiFact, police made arrests of trespassers in a restricted disaster area. There is no evidence of people being forcefully arrested or removed for visiting their homes a month after the fires.
An image of a woman being arrested has been digitally combined with a different image showing the aftermath of the fires in Maui to spread a false narrative. Therefore, we have marked the claim as false.