TikTok misrepresented as Morocco earthquake footage spreads online

Social media posts claim a mysterious flashing light was seen right before an earthquake devastated regions of Morocco. But the claim is false; the video comes from a digital creation made by an artist who shared it in 2020.


<span>Screenshot of an X post taken September 11, 2023</span>
Screenshot of an X post taken September 11, 2023

Similar posts also circulated in Spanish and Arabic and on September 10, a TikTok further spread the claim, garnering more than 5.9 million views on the video-sharing platform.

The posts followed a 6.8-magnitude quake that hit Morocco on September 8 killing more than 2,800 people, most of them in remote villages of the High Atlas Mountains.

The deadly quake -- the strongest on record in Morocco -- has put a heavy burden on the North African kingdom's emergency resources, leaving ordinary citizens to step in to deliver medicine, food, quilts and mattresses to stricken villages.

When natural disasters strike, it is common to find accounts sharing old or manipulated video footage. AFP has recently debunked several such posts, following the wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui and recent hurricanes in the states of California and Florida.

Reverse image and keyword searches show the latest posts are similarly false. AFP found the footage of the "lightning strike" dates back to May 1, 2020, when it was shared on TikTok by the user Jay Hideaway who posted it with the caption: "First pandemic and now ALIENS?!"

<span>Screenshot of a TikTok taken Septermber 11, 2023</span>
Screenshot of a TikTok taken Septermber 11, 2023

The link on this user's TikTok profile takes you to the creator's OpenSea account, a digital marketplace, where he has the video listed for sale as a non-fungible token (NFT). "Original Apocalyptic Video Art," is the description of the available works.

<span>Screenshot of an OpenSea profile taken September 11, 2023</span>
Screenshot of an OpenSea profile taken September 11, 2023

The TikTok profile also features many other digitally created videos appearing to show strange phenomena including inexplicable flashes of light and unidentified flying objects in the sky, often claiming to capture extraterrestrial sightings.

AFP has debunked additional posts falsely associated with the Morocco quake here.