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The viral false claim that nearly 200 arsonists are behind the Australia fires, explained (VOX)

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The viral false claim that nearly 200 arsonists are behind the Australia fires, explained – By Umair Irfan (VOX) / Jan 9 2020

Only a handful of fires were deliberately ignited. But that didn’t stop people from spreading misinformation.

A false claim that a big wave of arson is driving Australia’s raging bushfires has gone viral this week on social media, particularly among climate skeptics grasping for a counter-narrative about the wildfire disaster.

Donald Trump Jr. and Sean Hannity were among the most prominent tweeters this week of the allegation that close to 200 people in Australia have been charged with arson for deliberately lighting brushfires. Other people on the right, as well as bots trying to amplify climate skepticism, jumped on board with the hashtag #ArsonEmergency.

In many instances, the people promoting the arson narrative are doing so to refute climate change as a driver of the fires, with some conspiracy theorists going as far as to blame environmentalists for deliberately starting fires.

To be clear: Climate change is definitely a factor in the growing severity of Australia’s fire risks. And there is no arson emergency in Australia; the number of arrests for arson being cited is wrong. In fact, the Fox article in Hannity’s tweet debunks his headline:

“The fires, fueled by drought and the country’s hottest and driest year on record, have been raging since September, months earlier than is typical for Australia’s annual wildfire season. So far, the blazes have killed 25 people, destroyed 2,000 homes and scorched an area twice the size of the state of Maryland,” reports Fox News.

“The NSW Police Force announced Monday that since Nov. 8, authorities have taken legal action against 183 people for fire-related offenses, including 24 individuals who have been charged for allegedly deliberately lighting bushfires — a crime punishable by up to 21 years in prison,” adds Fox.

Continue to article: https://www.vox.com/2020/1/9/21058332/australia-fires-arson-lightning-explained

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