Social Media Fueling Disinformation Panic During Western Wildfires


Staff member
(The Guardian) Jason Wilson has been in Portland for us, reporting on how social media disinformation about the US west coast blazes appears to be spreading faster than the fire itself. He writes: Photojournalist Nathan Howard was on assignment for a picture agency south-east of the fire-menaced foothill town of Estacada, Oregon, on Thursday afternoon when a man angrily approached him on a rural roadside.

The man insisted the photographer was a looter, Howard said, and despite his repeated attempts to identify himself as a journalist, the man began yelling and became so agitated that “it was like his eyes were popping out of his head”. The man eventually allowed Howard to get in his car and leave, but gave chase as Howard drove north.

Then a second truck approached from the opposite direction, Howard said, and parked horizontally across the highway, blocking both lanes. A man climbed from the truck and pointed a loaded assault rifle at Howard through his car’s windshield, and again accused him of looting, his finger on the trigger.

Wilson reports that this is just one of the real life consequences of the wave of disinformation on social media about the cause of the wildfires. Many rumors baselessly claim that the fires were lit by political activists, either the far-right group the Proud Boys or the leftist activists known as antifa.
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