The original photos were taken by photographers Lauro Alves, in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, and Loren McIntyre, 20 years ago
Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cristiano Ronaldo, Emmanuel Macron and Gisele Bundchen made the same (and, unfortunately, very common) mistake on Thursday: They didn’t fact-check an image before posting it on social media.
consequence was brutal. They generated an international wave of disinformation
around fires in the Amazon region — a crisis that was already serious enough.
official public data released by the Brazilian government, there have
fires in the country this year — more than half of them in the
rainforest region. That represents an 84% increase compared with the same
period last year.
President Jair Bolsonaro, however, doesn’t seem to trust this information nor
to be willing to take steps to prevent fires.
ago, he laid off the head of the institute that had been keeping track of not
only fires in the region but also deforestation for decades. Bolsonaro
disagreed in public with the institute’s last reportings and now says he wants
to hire a private company to collect data.
the rainforest burns. NASA has photographed it from space. On Monday, São
Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, located hundreds of miles away from the
rainforest, experienced a gray rain, or a storm of ashes. Specialists say
they believe it was caused by
This is why
on Thursday, famous people like the Portuguese soccer player, the American
actor, the pop star, the French politician and the Brazilian top models went
online to demand some action from Bolsonaro.
published by Cristiano
Ronaldo on Instagram received more than 7 million likes but it didn’t
show the Amazon region. It was actually taken in Rio Grande do Sul, in the
southern part of Brazil. And it was not even a new photo. It was shot in 2013.
other images shared by the other celebrities in the list also showed flames in
the forest, but there are even older — from 1989 — and can be both easily found
in photo databases like Shutterstock or Alamy.
mistakes didn’t just come from foreigners. Brazilian top model Fernanda Lima,
for example, posted an image of a “crying monkey” carrying her baby, suggesting
it was an effect of the fire. The photo, however, was taken in India, in 2017.
There is no connection between that scene and the terrible situation the
Brazilian rainforest is facing now.
Aware of the
misuse of several images, President Bolsonaro hit back. Late at night, he tweeted against
the French president, Emanuel Macron.
that President Macron seeks to instrumentalize an internal issue of Brazil and
other Amazonian countries for personal political gains. The sensationalist tone
with which he refers to the Amazon (appealing even to fake photos) does nothing
to solve the problem”.
By the time
this article was published, Macron and the other celebrities hadn’t changed
their posts or talked about the use of misleading photos. International media
had already shared some of Brazilian fact-checker Agência Lupa’s and Agence
fact-checkers in Brazil were afraid the discussion around the Amazon fires — a
vital one — might just end up being a discussion around misinformation.
“There is no
doubt old photos showing Amazon fires are symbolic and refer to what is
happening at this moment in the Amazon region. But posting old images might
trigger an awkward and misplaced discussion around fake news now,” said Natalia
Leal, director of content for Agência Lupa.
debating about solutions for the fires in the Amazon, which are pretty serious,
people might spend time and effort pointing out what is true and what is not.
We don’t need that. We don’t need to use old photos or out of context pictures
to show how serious the situation is. It is just very serious.”
Original article found on Malta Winds