Teyit's efforts to tackle misinformation about the earthquake in İzmir, 30 October 2020

Here is the summary of Teyit’s intensive work on the front line to prevent information disorder after the Izmir quake, October 30th 2020.

06/11/2020 17:02 7 min read

This article is more than 2 year old.

A 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit Izmir on October 30, 2020, at 14:51. The earthquake centred off the Aegean sea killed 114 people and at least 1035 people were injured as of November 6, 2020. After the earthquake, there were 2354 aftershocks, 46 of which were over 4 magnitude.

The latest news about the earthquake were followed by suspicious information and misinformation and spread within a short time. Indeed, misinformation spreads faster in times of crisis. Misinformation can cause misunderstanding as well as damage in such situations where every moment is crucial.

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As Teyit, we have worked hard to prevent the spread of misinformation by closely tracking the news about the earthquake. As a team, we examined suspicious information as of the very first moment. Since the earthquake struck, we have published nine new fact-checks. We also updated our old fact-checks that popped up again. We tried to empower our followers to combat misinformation at times like this as well.

The most common types of misinformation

Many buildings were damaged when the earthquake hit İzmir on October 30, 2020. Some of the most rapidly disseminating misinformation after the quake was about these buildings. It was claimed that the Red Crescent Blood Center in Bayraklı was destroyed during the earthquake. Teyit investigated the claim and fact-checked that what was destroyed was not the blood center but a civilian building behind the center. It was possible to verify this fake news through geolocation and environmental information. Another contribution came from our community that Teyit cares about all the time. We were able to add a new piece of evidence with the help of our follower. Our follower, Melisa Ay, enabled us to see the building's current state with the photo she took from that location.

In another similar claim, there were images which allegedly showed that the district governorship building in Bayraklı was demolished. However, this claim was not true either. After detecting the location of the demolished building, Teyit got information in the region through journalist Berkcan Zengin. Although he showed his press card, he was not allowed to take pictures of the area and blocked by the security forces. However, he confirmed that it was not the district governorship building which was destroyed. The destroyed building was a civilian building in Manavkuyu. Images were falsely attributed to the district governorship.

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Another claim that spread rapidly after the earthquake was an urgent need for blood in Izmir. The posts which were inviting people to the centers and hospitals to donate blood were shared on various platforms. We also verified that these claims are not true. Given the danger of the density that could occur in hospitals during the pandemic, this information's verification was crucial. Besides, the gathering of people in an environment where aftershocks continued could cause a different danger. It was possible that the traffic would prevent the search and rescue and medical teams from reaching the region.

Another rapidly spreading and highly misleading claim was about an allegedly missing student. It was claimed that nobody heard about the medical student named Ahmet Demir. This false information could prevent the rescue of other people and cause loss of time. The owner of the photo later confirmed that the claim was not true and that it was fabricated. His name is not Ahmet Demir; he is Alper Turgut, who did not even live in İzmir.

Sharing old images as if they were current is one of the most common false information types in times of crisis. Teyit examined four such claims after the October 30 Izmir earthquake. An analysis of photos of two crying people revealed that the images were not up-to-date and belonged to the January 2020 Elazığ earthquake and the other to the November 1999 Düzce earthquake. A video from the Elazığ earthquake was among the images that are claimed to be up to date. In the video, the conversations between the person under the wreckage and the search and rescue teams were broadcast with music and text and watched millions of times. We also found that this video is outdated. Another old image belonged to President Erdoğan. The footage of Erdoğan without a mask, taken while visiting a veteran in 2017, spread with the claims that it happened after the October 30 Izmir earthquake. Teyit analyzed the photos, considering the Covid-19 outbreak. Finally, the image shared with the claim that Greece's cargo plane came for help was examined by Teyit, and it was revealed that it is an old image and that Greece has not sent aid yet. During the Elazığ earthquake, it was similarly claimed that the help came from Azerbaijan, and as a result of Teyit's investigations, the claim was not true.

Moments of crisis create a suitable ground for reviving conspiracy theories. For example, it was claimed that the earthquake's magnitude was deliberately declared below 7.0 because a state of emergency could be declared in 7.0 and above earthquake. There was no earthquake of 7.0 magnitude among the state of emergency conditions, and also earthquake is not included in the terms of the declaration of disaster in the relevant laws. The claims were fabricated.

Information that was previously proved to be false also appeared in this period. Teyit tried to prevent the spread of misinformation by bringing back some of the claims it had investigated before. For example, the claim that the photos of the dogs on the wreck are from Izmir was investigated during the Elazığ earthquake. Teyit made the necessary updates in this process and published that the photos were taken from the stock image website and have been often shared since 2018. When it comes to earthquakes, of course, claims related to HAARP also spread. Teyit tried to tackle these claims by updating our video on HAARP, which we originally published in April, and shared it again.

We tried to positively contribute to the process with the various social cards we shared on our social media. We directed these posts to our articles published in our category called teyitpedia in order to provide a more in-depth perspective and understanding.

In our video format called Teyit Yolu, we prepared a post to explain how to approach the information spread during the times of crisis, such as an earthquake. We tried to inform our followers and raise their awareness of media literacy and methodology.

Teyit tried to prevent misinformation from spreading further by working intensely during the crisis with its entire team. As the process is current, Teyit searches for any false information that may arise and takes action when necessary.

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