National Geographic reacted angrily this week to a fake photo that has been falsely spread as their photo of the year, saying that spreading “anything fake” is a threat “to those of us in the business of telling the truth.”
The impressive-looking fake image of a breaching great white shark went viral on Facebook and Twitter last week after it was posted as “Photo of the year by National Geographic’s Bob Burton.”
In reality, the image isn’t even a photograph, according to Gizmodo. The picture is actually taken from a series of computer generated stock images by Russian illustrator “Alexyz3d,” which becomes obvious when the fake photo is enlarged.
The photograph’s supposed author, “National Geographic Chief Photographer Bob Burton,” is also fake. No one by that name works at the magazine, and National Geographic says they’ve never even heard of a photographer by the name Bob Burton.
The iconic magazine posted “14 Not-Fake Shark Pictures From a Real Nat Geo Photographer” in response to the computer-generated image, and set the record straight about just how fake the story was.
“The man, who goes by the alias Bob Burton, claimed (falsely) to have taken National Geographic’s photo of the year (an award we don’t have) of a shark leaping out of the water (which is clearly fake). But none of those erroneous details seemed to matter as the image made the rounds of social media to enthusiastic reviews.”
National Geographic went on to call 2016 “a year of fake news” and to blast the people who continue to share fake news and “fake anything.”
“Some of 2016’s whoppers were misleading, such as the fictional reports about the U.S. presidential election, National Geographic‘s Daniel Stone wrote. “Other stories were dangerous, like the untrue rumors about a Washington, D.C., restaurant, which was then visited by a man with an assault rifle.”
Stone went on to say that it may not seem like a big deal to spread a fake photo as the real thing, but said that it is destructive to legitimate media sources.
“But fake anything circulating as real is a threat to those of us in the business of telling the truth,” Stone said. “Untrue stories also erode the trust of anyone who consumes the truth, and who looks to professionals for authenticity, not practical jokes, hoaxes, and counterfeiting.”
Stone also reminded readers of how difficult and dangerous it is for photographers to get real shots, especially of wild animals such as sharks, and said that it stung to have a fake image get so much attention.
“Advanced photography skills can’t be faked, nor can the costly and technical equipment necessary,” said Stone. “That’s true for photographing all animals, and it’s especially true for sharks.”
As a response, National Geographic offered the fourteen real shark photos for viewers.
A phony photograph of a shark is the latest in a year of fake news. But these images are all-real. https://t.co/YE6GXKU4JD— National Geographic (@NatGeoMag) December 6, 2016
Those who would like to see some truly amazing nature photographs can also check out National Geographic’s real winning images for nature photographs of 2016, which they released this week.
Many people have been calling for a crackdown on so-called fake news recently, especially after the presidential election when many false news stories were reportedly circulated widely. Hillary Clinton asked Congress on Thursday to find a way to crack down on fake news, calling it “a threat to democracy,” The Washington Post reports. The former presidential candidate said there’s an “epidemic of malicious fake news” and said that “it’s now clear that so-called fake news can have real-world consequences.”
One fake news “reporter,” Paul Horner, recently told The Washington Post that he credited Donald Trump’s election in part to his fake news stories. Horner, whose made up news stories were reportedly widely shared by Trump supporters and even by Eric Trump and Trump staff members, blamed the people who share stories without fact-checking them first.
[Trump’s] campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.
While it may not seem like a big deal to spread a fake shark photo, fact-checking this one may be a step in the right direction.
[Featured Image by Alexyz3d/Shutterstock]