Doctored videos of Tuesday’s devastating explosion in Beirut are already circulating on every major social media platform.
In videos originally shot by both CNN and eyewitnesses in the Lebanese capital, footage of a rising smoke plume at Beirut Port was inverted and made to look like a “negative.” In addition, a missile-like object was superimposed on the video.
Some of the manipulated footage was taken from the Facebook page of Beirut-based, CNN Arabic social media producer Mehsen Mekhtfe. He had captured the explosion while walking near the port – something that he does frequently during that time of day.
“Many people reached out to me to tell me that it’s fake,” Mekhtfe told CNN, referring to the fake missile video. “But it’s my video and I have the original and it doesn’t show that. When people ask me about it, I tell them, the doctored one is not true.”
“I can emphasize that I didn’t see any missile and didn’t hear any jet or drone above me,” he added.
CNN Arabic’s team in Dubai was first to spot the footage, and immediately recognized it had been doctored.
The manipulated footage can be found on every major social media platform: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok.
Some of the videos on Facebook had a “false information” warning, including one that had been shared more than 1,500 times. Others did not bear that warning, including one with over 8,400 views.
CNN contacted the social media companies for comment on the doctored videos but has received a response from TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.
“As soon as we became aware of this video, it was removed for violating our policy on misleading content,” a TikTok spokesperson told CNN. “Prior to removal, the video had already been automatically flagged by our system, limiting its reach on our platform. Our hearts go out to the people of Beirut during this difficult time.”
“We have removed the video for violating our Community Guidelines and re-uploads of the original clip if they contain segments that we deem to be violative of YouTube’s Community Guidelines,” Farshad Shadloo, YouTube’s head of policy communications, told CNN in an email.
“The video in question is marked as synthetic and manipulated media,” a Twitter spokesperson told CNN. That means anywhere the video shows up, it should bear a label showing it has been doctored.
When CNN contacted the individual credited with creating the doctored video for comment, the person responded, “Someone or somebody hated me so much to put my email on a fake video.”
Reporting contributed by Jonny Hallam in Atlanta and Caitlin Hu in New York,