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Fact check: Morocco earthquake not caused by 'laser weapon'

September 13, 2023

Did strange flying objects or a mysterious laser weapon trigger the devastating earthquake in Morocco? This absurd theory is circulating through social networks — and is, of course, wrong.

A pair of social media video still purporting to show actual lights over Morocco ahead of the earthquake that devastated the region.

While the search for missing persons after the devastating earthquake in Morocco continues and the cleanup has just begun, videos have gone viral on social media allegedly showing strange events related to the earthquake. 

Claim: "This happened before the earthquake in Morocco," claims a user on X, formerly Twitter. He posted a video that purports to show "some kind of drone" throwing lightning bolts and "a huge laser-like beam" downward. Another video, which has been viewed more than 200,000 times, purports to show the sky over Marrakech "before the earthquake occurred." The videos are also being spread on TikTok.  

DW fact check: Fake.

The videos have nothing to do with the earthquake in Morocco and therefore cannot prove the theory of a "laser weapon" being used to start the earthquake. The videos are demonstrably older and in parts not genuine at all. 

This video, which is supposed to show a lightning bolt, has been posted several times and can be traced back to 2020, long before the recent earthquake in Morocco. Many users and also the author himself commented ironically on the video, which is supposed to show an attack by aliens. It was created by a video artist called Jay Hideaway, who uses VFX technology to insert artificially created visual effects into real videos. His TikTok channel features numerous computer-generated videos that are supposed to show apocalyptic scenes, such as zombie attacks or an explosion of the moon. On his account, Jay Hideaway calls his works "apocalyptic video art."

The second video, supposedly showing the sky over Marrakech shortly before the earthquake, is also not evidence of strange activity in the air in connection with the disaster. Using a reverse image search, we come across discussions about Unknown Flying Objects (UFOs) in forum posts. The oldest post, on Reddit, which contains the said video in the thumbnail, dates from November 2021, according to Google, and is thus just under two years old.

Weapons misrepresented as the cause of natural disasters

This is not the first time that the use of mysterious weapons has been the alleged cause of natural disasters. After the Hawaii wildfire disaster in August, images circulated on the web purporting to show an attack using energy weapons on the island of Maui. The alleged evidence image does not show futuristic directed energy weapons (DEW), but a missile launch from 2018, as our fact check shows. 

Videos of alleged evidence of human intervention also made the rounds after the devastating earthquake in Turkey in February. Lights in the sky were said to prove that the earthquake in Turkey was allegedly caused by a former US military program called the High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). So-called earthquake lights were probably the cause of the flashes in the videos, fact checks showed. Earthquake lights are generated by sparks on power lines when they are interrupted by the tremors of the earthquake.

That natural disasters in particular are always a breeding ground for obscure suspicions and conspiracy theories is no coincidence, experts said.

"Times of crisis are always a heyday for disinformation, misinformation and conspiracy myths," Lena Frischlich, a media psychologist at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and an expert on conspiracy theories, told DW. "That simply has to do with the fact that the information situation itself is very uncertain."

Morocco earthquake: Displaced survivors face uncertainty

This article was originally written in German.

Joscha Weber Bonn 9577
Joscha Weber Editor and fact-checker focusing on separating facts from fiction and uncovering disinformation.@joschaweber