The truth behind 'extreme' viral image of Sydney storm

Olivia Lambert
News Editor

A hoax photo has emerged amid wild weather fooling people across the world into believing a waterfall is flowing from Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The image of the bridge in Circular Quay depicts scenes similar to Niagara Falls, with a powerful surge of water appearing to flow into the harbour below.

Some people have claimed friends who work near the bridge sent them the photo during the heavy rain across the city, while others have used to image to illustrate how “extreme” the storm has been.

Another has also emerged of sharks circling a Sydney train station.

But the photo of the Sydney Harbour Bridge waterfall has been circulating since at least 2015.

A fake photo of the Sydney Harbour Bridge has been circulating since 2015. Source: Twitter

A Roads and Maritime Services spokesperson debunked the image at the time, telling Mashable it was not real.

“I would be very surprised if that would ever happen,” the spokesperson said.

“We wouldn’t be able to even have vehicles on there if there was that much water. So no, it’s definitely fake.”

Despite the image being dubbed a fake, it still hasn’t stopped people sharing it on both Twitter and Facebook.

“Sydney Harbour Bridge always seems to capture these extreme weather events. Here’s one from this weekend,” one tweet sharing the photo said.

Another user who posted the image tweeted: “WOW! It’s starting to get serious now.”

The photo too did the rounds on Facebook, with one claiming it was our own Niagara Falls.

“After drought, water restrictions and bushfires, now comes the flooding rains,” he wrote.

People are warned not to fall for the fake images. Source: Twitter

However, weather specialists Victorian Storm Chasers warned people not to be fooled by the photos.

“Folks be mindful of the usual fake photos doing the rounds such as these two oldies,” it said in a tweet alongside photos of sharks and the harbour bridge.

According to the Centre for Information Technology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, researchers discovered 2.8 million news articles shared on Twitter were fake.

“More than half the time, according to computer records, more than half of the users who shared the articles never clicked the link that would have enabled them to read the story,” the university said.

“It’s clear that people are more than happy to share, retweet, or like things without ever having read them.

“In terms of the spread and influence of fake news, this could be quite damaging. For example, the rise of clickbait relies on flashy headlines that draw attention. If people only read the headlines, they may mistakenly take what is in the headlines as fact without exploring further whether there’s doubt or another side expressed in the story.”

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