February 24, 2024

By David Klepper, Related Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Days after Maui’s wildfires killed scores of individuals and destroyed hundreds of properties final August, a surprising declare unfold with alarming velocity on YouTube and TikTok: The blaze on the Hawaiian island was set intentionally, utilizing futuristic vitality weapons developed by the U.S. navy.

Claims of “proof” quickly emerged: video footage on TikTok displaying a beam of blinding white gentle, too straight to be lightning, zapping a residential neighborhood and sending flames and smoke into the sky. The video was shared many tens of millions of instances, amplified by neo-Nazis, anti-government radicals and supporters of the QAnon conspiracy principle, and offered as proof that America’s leaders had turned on the nation’s residents.

“What if Maui was only a follow run?” one girl requested on TikTok. “In order that the federal government can use a direct vitality weapon on us?”

FILE – Rays of daylight pierce by means of the clouds Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, above properties burned by wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii. Days after Maui’s wildfires killed scores of individuals and destroyed 2,000 properties, a surprising declare unfold with alarming velocity on YouTube and TikTok: The blaze was set intentionally, utilizing futuristic vitality weapons developed by the U.S. navy. (AP Photograph/Rick Bowmer, File) 

The TikTok clip had nothing to do with the Maui fires. It was really video of {an electrical} transformer explosion in Chile earlier within the 12 months. However that didn’t cease a TikTok consumer with a behavior of posting conspiracy movies from utilizing the clip to sow extra concern and doubt. It was simply one in every of severalsimilarvideos and photos doctored and handed off as proof that the wildfires had been no accident.

Conspiracy theories have an extended historical past in America, however now they are often fanned across the globe in seconds, amplified by social media, additional eroding fact with a newfound harmful power.