August 12, 2023
Conspiracy Theorists Go Viral With Claim Space Lasers Are To Blame For Hawaii Fires
Forbes Innovation Consumer Tech Conspiracy Theorists Go Viral With Claim Space Lasers Are To Blame For HAWAII Fires Matt Novak Senior Contributor Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. FOIA reporter and founder of Paleofuture.com, writing news and opinion on every aspect of technology. Following Aug 11, 2023, 11:26pm EDT | Press play to listen to this article! Got it! Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to Linkedin An aerial image taken on August 10, 2023 shows a person walking past a destroyed car in the ... [+] aftermath of wildfires in western Maui in Lahaina, (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images) AFP via Getty Images If you search Twitter for information about the fires in Hawaii that have killed at least 67 people, you’re likely to find some wild conspiracy theories. In fact, a number of different verified accounts on Twitter, now officially known as X, insist space lasers are actually creating the fires in Maui—a ridiculous conspiracy theory that first gained widespread attention after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia floated the idea on Facebook in 2018. To be clear, there’s absolutely no evidence that space lasers are to blame for the fires in Maui, which have destroyed at least 1,000 buildings and caused mass evacuations . But that hasn’t stopped many so-called verified accounts on Twitter from insisting that old photos actually depict lasers being shot from space in Hawaii. One popular tweet that’s been viewed over 900,000 times has tried to suggest the photo below was captured showing a laser being shot at Hawaii. “This photo is circulating social media. Apparently this beam was captured before the Hawaii fires. Can anyone confirm?” the tweet from a verified account reads . Tweet falsely suggesting the photo shows a laser beam that hit Hawaii before the fires in Maui. Twitter In reality, the photo is from a 2019 SpaceX launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base (now known as a Space Force Base), which is located in California. The image was probably popularized as being associated with lasers because it was posted to Reddit featuring a caption saying it looked like a laser . But obviously it was no such thing. Long-exposure take-off photos for space launches often look like that. MORE FOR YOU New Pixel 8 Pro Leak Reveals Google’s Smart Decision Exactly When Apple Will Launch iPhone 15 iPhone 15 Pro Insider Affirms New Date Apple iPhone 15 Pro New Leaks Suggest Surprise Big Upgrade Coming Reddit post from 2019 pointing out that a SpaceX launch looked like a laser strike. Reddit Another verified Twitter user shared an image on Thursday trying to suggest lasers were to blame for the fires in Hawaii. “If the fires in Hawaii were natural, what in the h is this?” the account asked . And despite the fact that it’s been viewed over 2.8 million times, the tweet is complete nonsense. As Snopes explains, the image is from a meteor that flashed over Michigan back in January 2018 . NASA, the National Weather Service and numerous other experts confirmed it was a meteor. Tweet falsely suggesting a space laser hit Hawaii. Twitter Another video, posted by a verified account called the Redpill Drifter , insists that directed energy weapons, possibly from China, have been deployed in Hawaii. “POSSIBLE DIRECTED ENERGY WEAPONS USED IN HAWAII FIRES Sightings of beams of light / lasers are being reported,” the account tweeted along with a video. And while the video initially tries to suggest the Chinese government may have something to do with these supposed space lasers, it quickly becomes about President Joe Biden’s administration. “Our government are absolute monsters,” the person in the video claims . Needless to say, there’s no evidence that China or the Biden administration are using laser weapons against the U.S. But the problem, of course, is that the people spreading this junk information have a blue checkmark. Just because someone is “verified” on Twitter, it doesn’t mean the information they pass around can be seen as reliable. Twitter introduced the verification program back in 2009 after being sued by baseball legend Tony La Russa over an impersonation account. But the Social Media company stopped verifying ID after Elon Musk bought the platform in October 2022. Anyone with $8 to spend can become verified and get boosted by the Twitter algorithm. Other “verified” accounts on Twitter have tried to suggest there’s something nefarious going on in Hawaii because there are a number of MILITARY bases in the state. The National Guard has been mobilized to fight the blazes, according to the Washington Post , but there’s absolutely no evidence that Hawaii’s long history of being a land with a huge U.S. military presence has anything to do with the fires. Twitter used to be a relatively reliable source of on-the-ground information during natural disasters and various crises. But it’s become increasingly unreliable after Musk took control. Aside from making it possible for anyone to buy a blue checkmark for just $8 per month, Musk has created incentives for users of the platform to create sensationalist lies with a new program that pays creators for engagement. And given all the other changes to Twitter in recent months, including a decision to reinstate an account that shared child sex abuse imagery and defending that move in a government hearing , Twitter is becoming quite a wasteland for valuable information. That doesn’t seem like it’s going to get better anytime soon. Follow me on Twitter . Check out my website . Matt Novak Editorial Standards Print Reprints & Permissions
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