Millions Of People Just Watched A 'Live' GIF On Facebook For Hours

Yesterday, approximately 17 million Facebook Live users tuned in to an awe-inspiring video of nature at its fiercest: A massive, swirling supercell storm. In the sense that "live" means "actually happening right now", however, this stream was 100 per cent fake.

Screencap: Facebook

As many commenters surmised, the "stream" was little more than a short, looping gif dubbed over with stock thunderclap sound effects, prompting responses such as "it's fake", which elicited replies from even bigger rubes pointing out that supercell storms are absolutely a thing that exists. Never change, Facebook commenters.

The stream itself comes to us from a sketchy-looking page called Newsfeed. And moments after the Facebook Live video hit its four-hour limit, a new stream began on another page called The Cherry Orchard. (Both pages list the same domain, newsfeed.pro, as their homepage, which is basically just a collection of copied-and-pasted jokes with a salacious banner photo.)

The Cherry Orchard and Newsfeed aren't the only pages sapping views off this eternal storm. A page called NTD Television pulled this same trick on Wednesday -- pocketing an easy 7.6 million views -- and gave credit to CONTENTbible. What the hell is CONTENTbible? Some kind of viral video licenser, apparently. But it isn't the creator of the gif in question.

After a bit of sleuthing, the origins of this gif can be traced to a Slovenian man named Marko Korosec, who managed to snap pictures of a supercell that formed over western South Dakota on June 19... of 2015. For a storm chaser like Korosec, it must have been a dream come true, since the clouds and eventual tornado resulted in "hail around the size of softballs and winds around 100 mph [161km/h]," according to the National Weather Service.

The gif itself was created by Korosec's friend Jonathan Wennström, presumably through some compositing of the 2015 photos, and according to a recent Instagram post, the pair are excited that the animation has "gone viral" for -- as always -- reasons unknown.

[Matt Navarra]