Memos from Asia

Explosion of Conspiracy Theories Following Beirut Explosion

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Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, was struck by a huge explosion on August 5. The blast killed at least 154 people and injured thousands around the city.

The reason behind the catastrophe remained unknown for some time before it became known that 2750 ton ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at port was most likely the explosive.

But, the truth takes time to spread on social media. Before truth could tie its shoes, the conspiracy theorists and disinformation spreaders were ready with their rumours.

Note: The conspiracy theories and rumours aren’t shared in their original form to make sure that no misinformation or disinformation is amplified.

The Fireworks Theory

The videos that went viral, showed a fire burning at the port before the large explosion happened.

Many thought it was some kind of fireworks that were involved in the blast.
The fireworks theory spread around the world quickly in the first few hours and even became news in some places.

It was rubbished by Lebanese general security chief but since then authorities have suggested fireworks might actually have been stored nearby.

This is not a conspiracy theory though and has actual chances of being true but it was spread like news instead of theory.

Nuclear Blast Assumption

Many on Twitter were quick to conclude that the mushroom cloud seen in videos from Beirut was a clear sign of nuclear blast.

Even a verified account shared the “atomic” theory in a now-deleted tweet that got thousands of likes and shared.

Weapons experts explained that a mushroom cloud isn’t unique to nuclear explosions. Also, a nuclear blast is accompanied by a bright white flash and it also generates enough heat to leave people severely burned, which wasn’t the case in Beirut at all.

The Doctored Video

A CNN Arabic employee’s video of blast was manipulated and spread online.

The original video was edited to look like a ‘negative’ and a missile was superimposed on it. The edited fake video was circulated on all social media platforms and few could contain its reach.

The CNN employee informed that his video had been doctored and that he had neither seen any missile nor heard any drone or plane.

Trump’s use of “attack”

The POTUS while talking about the blast used the words “a terrible attack”.

Many focussed on the word ‘attack’ and started claiming the weirdest things ranging from the possibility that President Trump knew blast was going to happen to claiming he was behind the blast.

Some even added terrorist to the quote and spread the fake quote.

The US defense officials later contradicted him saying there was no evidence of attack.

Israel and Hezbollah

Many conspiracy theories were spreading on Reddit, 4chan and other social media sites blaming US, Israel or Hezbollah for the strike.

Some used old videos of Hezbollah leader threatening Israel with ammonium nitrate bombs.

Others used an old photo of Israeli PM Netanyahu from UN showing a map of Beirut with marked sites that he claimed were used by Hezbollah to hide weapons. Even the site on map was far from the site of explosion as was claimed.

The Lebanese and Israeli authorities have dismissed all such theories.

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