A photograph of a beefy, curling green anaconda allegedly spotted in Mdantsane which did the rounds on social media and struck terror in many hearts has been revealed as fake news.
The photograph was sent to a Daily Dispatch journalist yesterday via WhatsApp along with a message that it was spotted at NU16 near Grinaker Dam. “Residents are in panic mode it might move to their homes,” it read.
Armed with the knowledge gleaned from East London snake expert of Apex Predators Deon Nel, who identified the snake as a green anaconda indigenous to South America and said he thought the post was bogus, the Daily Dispatch set about getting to the root of the photograph’s origin.
Media strategist and journalism trainer Ray Joseph checked the image and said it had been knocking around in various guises on the internet since 2008.
“I did a TinEye search and found other places where this picture has been used before, so unless your snake is well travelled, this is definitely a case of someone stealing it off a web page and putting it on social media and claiming it’s from East London,” he said.
He said he used a “Google reverse image search” to find out whether the photo had cropped up on the internet before and found a blog about anacondas which the photo had illustrated.
“So the picture is genuine, but not taken in East London and used totally out of context,” said Joseph, who warned that social media content is often fake.
One of the spurious versions of the green anaconda photo that knocked around cyberspace featured a miniaturised man standing alongside the snake, making the reptile look like a monster from a schlock horror movie.
“Rather ignore this kind of post, unless it comes from a credible source,” warned Joseph. “Be sceptical and always check before sharing something. You have a choice: you can be part of the problem and share without checking, or you can be part of the solution and be careful about what you share.” — firstname.lastname@example.org