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.
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.
This gif animation of Wall, SD supercell (19 June, 2015) was produced by my friend @jonathanwennstroem Hey everyone & welcome my new followers! Recognize this rotating storm? :) It's been a great exposure of my work lately since this same video has gone completely viral on social media yesterday. This is my life, what I live for - to chase the most epic storms on Earth and indeed, you can join me on storm chasing tours next spring. See my website www.markokorosec.net or link on my profile for details! #earth #travel #supercell #storm #markokorosec #viral #weather #usa #america #chaser
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.