One example of fake news about Kuwait is a reoccurring story that spreads every summer on social media. The basic story being spread is that the weather in Kuwait City reached 63 degrees Celsius, which would be about 143 degrees Fahrenheit. Accompanying many of these posts are several key photographs that seem to prove the story. First, there is a picture of a thermometer taken at a Kuwaiti observatory that seems to show 63 degrees Celsius. Second, there is a photograph of melting cars. There is also a photograph of a melting traffic light that is commonly shared, and also a photo of a palm tree on fire that is also used to ‘prove’ this story. These photos are generally shared together, and when viewing these kinds of posts, it seems to prove the story. The story might be spread for a political purpose, such as showing how global warming is becoming worse, or they might be shared simply because the story itself is fairly interesting. Kuwait is known for being in the desert, so many people might assume that it actually became this hot.
Several fact-checking sites, however, easily debunk this story. Only one of the photographs used was actually taken in Kuwait, while others came from elsewhere. The only Kuwaiti photograph, which is the one of the thermometer, was also faked in Photoshop. The record temperature in Kuwait is 52 degrees Celsius, so the country has never seen it get as hot as 63 degrees Celsius.
The melting cars photograph was actually taken from an Arizona car factory, where a fire spread throughout the parking lot where cars were being stored. This resulted in several of the cars ‘melting’, and this image became the main photo being spread on social media as cars that were simply melting due to high heat in Kuwait.
The photograph of the traffic light that is melting was also the result of a fire; it happened due to a car fire that occurred close by following an accident, and this is what caused the traffic light to melt, not natural heat from the sun. Similarly, the burning palm tree is a photograph taken in Saudi Arabia, after it had been struck by lightning.
When these images are posted together on a social media post, however, they do appear to be a real story. According to the fact-check site Nairaland, this is a hoax that tends to reoccur every summer, particularly in July when the temperatures become hottest. The hoax almost always claims that the melting cars occurred in Kuwait City, although sometimes the hoax will appear in different forms, such as saying the event took place in Saudi Arabia, or in Arizona, which are other places that can become extremely warm. The story is believable because people recognize that temperatures in Kuwait can become extreme, but they have never been as hot as the 63 degrees Celsius mentioned in the story. The hottest temperatures recorded would be ten degrees cooler, or about 125 degrees Fahrenheit. This is still hot and uncomfortable, but nowhere near hot enough to melt metal.
Perhaps the interesting element of this story is that it shows how fake news can spread on virtually any topic. Most people might think that fake news only serves a political purpose, but there is no real political motive behind this story outside of the potential global warming implication. But because the story seems plausible, especially with pictures that have the appearance of supporting the main details, it becomes believable to many users on social media who will quickly retweet or repost the story. In reality, however, it has never been hot enough in Kuwait to actually melt cars.
- Nairaland. (2019). Fake news about ‘melting cars in Kuwait’ goes viral. Accessible online at https://www.nairaland.com/5249423/fake-news-melting-cars-kuwait