BRAZIL — Social media helped increase coverage of the wildfires, but it’s also contributing to misinformation.
Yes, there is are real fires happening in the Amazon rainforest, and humans are likely the cause of the blazes. But yes, there are also a lot of the photos being shared are either old photos of past Amazon fires or photos of different fires faked to look like its in the Amazon.
In Brazil alone, there are 80% more fires in 2019 than there were last year, according to the country’s space research center. More than half of the fires in Brazil are in its Amazon region.
Satellite images are helping show just how many fires there are, and how much of their smoke has spread across the country.
But photos on social media are conflating the current crisis with previous fires.
One such photo — one of the most-shared photos on social media — shows a lush forest with a massive wall of smoke billowing from a fire.
Musical artist and actor Jaden Smith shared the image on his Instagram, where it garnered over a million likes. YouTube celebrity Logan Paul shared the image on Twitter, too.
Yes, the image shows the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. But it’s not of the current fires. It’s more than 20 years old: the Guardian, which republished the photo in 2007, says it was taken in June 1989.
Entertainment sites like 9gag and UNILAD both are running the photo on their websites. Their social media posts prominently featuring the photo have tens of thousands of shares.
Another photo making the rounds on social media claims to also show the Amazon rainforest on fire.
Leonardo DiCaprio shared it on his Instagram and it has over 3 million likes.
Even the Rainforest Trust, which is asking people to donate to help stop deforestation, shared it on its Twitter account.
But it’s definitely not showing the current fires in the Amazon. CNN found it on a website published in 2018.
Actor David Licauco shared four photos — all of which are not of the current wildfires in the Amazon. Two aren’t even of an Amazon wildfire. The top image is from a 2018 wildfire in Sweden; the bottom is of a wildfire in Montana on August 6, 2000.
The most heartbreaking photos being shared are the charred remains of animals, or animals attempting to escape wildfires. Blogger Nathalie Muñoz posted a series of photos about the Amazon rainforest fires.
The photo of the monkey crying, holding a smaller monkey, isn’t in the Amazon. It was taken in Jabalpur, India, by Avinash Lodhi sometime in April 2016. And the photo of the burned rabbit is from the 2018 wildfire in Malibu, California.