This Wasn’t Lightning

More than 115,000 people viewed this falsely labeled video (screenshot from YouTube)

This summer a 2012 YouTube video of a construction explosion in a Finnish river channel was falsely relabeled as a lightning strike on a river in northern California. It became an immediate sensation on social media because of the California wildfires.

At first I was fooled but I looked for more videos of lightning striking water and there really aren’t any because it’s so boring. Lightning only touches the water’s surface. That’s why fish don’t die. Yet the falsified video shows mud boiling from the bottom. Hmmm, something’s wrong with the label.

What I did find was a fact-checker video from KARE-11 in Minnesota in 2017. As they explained, the video was not lightning. It was a Finnish construction company displaying the work they do to clear river channels.

This falsely labeled video has been around for at least three years and it’s still fooling people. Why do we believe fake social media so easily?

Studies have shown that “fake news actually reaches more people and spreads more quickly than the truth.”

We spread it because “false news is more novel than true news and we are more likely to share novel information.”

We share it quickly because it’s just so easy to click “Share” without thinking.

A 2020 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology is reassuring. We aren’t stupid. We aren’t gullible. We haven’t been hoodwinked into believing something false. We’ve just been lazy. We didn’t think about it before we passed it along.

I’m really glad I looked into the lightning question.

Think about the accuracy. Think!

(screenshot from YouTube video)

5 thoughts on “This Wasn’t Lightning

    1. Oy! I ignored the word hawk because so many non-birders call them “hawks” that I’ve gotten used to hearing it. But you’re right they are not hawks and not even closely related to them. Oy!

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