Council shares fake quake photo

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 13:13 22/01/2014
Fake photo
FACEBOOK
DUPED: A screenshot from Facebook of the photo that Palmerston North City Council shared.

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A misleading picture purporting to be a crack-strewn Pongaroa road has appeared on official online sources, prompting a call for organisations to be wary of spreading quake misinformation.

The photo, which popped up online after Monday's earthquake, has so far been shared by Palmerston North City Council, and thousands of others on social media.

The photo claims to be of the road to Pongaroa - the Pahiatua-Pongaroa Rd - which was shut by the Tararua District Council after the quake and remains closed to the public.

But the photo has surfaced a number of times online before it appeared on Facebook yesterday, including in an online photo blog showing the damage caused to areas of Montana, US, by the 1959 Yellowstone Earthquake.

PNCC have now deleted the photo from their social media sites.

The council's spokesman Daniel O'Regan said staff had been advised the photo was fake after they had shared it.

"It was just a mistake. People on Facebook let us know pretty quickly and we removed it within a few minutes."

Massey University senior journalism lecturer James Hollings said it was important for official organisations to double check photos and information before sharing with the public, particularly in times of natural disaster.

Fake pictures are now able to have massive reach through social media, an issue highlighted by the misinformation spread during Cyclone Sandy in New York in 2012 and the Japanese Tsunami in 2011.

"It's quite common for people to want to get on the bandwagon and grab their moment of fame when disaster strikes by saying they have the great picture," Hollings said.

"The council in particular are a civil defence hub, or they're at least aligned to it, and that is where people turn to for reliable information.

"In an age of increasing information, if they're not able to get it from an official site, where can they get it?"

Incorrect information and photos could be distressing for people in the area and cause them to make the wrong decisions, Hollings said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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