A false claim behind the Australian raging bushfires being the big wave of arson has become a viral news on social media this week. In particular the climate skeptics who are grasping this as a counter-narrative towards the wildfire disaster.
Among the most prominent tweeters this week alleging close to 200 people were charged with arson for deliberately igniting bushfires were Donald Trump Jr. and Sean Hannity. Other people also jumped on-board with a hashtag #ArsonEmergency. With bots right behind trying to amplify the climate skepticism.
Now, let’s clear the matter. The source allegedly saying “nearly 200” people were charged with arson, is news released by the New South Wales Police Force on January 6, 2020. The actual news released was- action has been taken against 183 people since November 8th 2019, for offenses related to igniting fires which includes discarding improperly cigarettes or not taking adequate precautions during use of machinery, i. e. not arson. According to the NSW police, legal action ranged from giving cautions to filing criminal charges against some of them.
Turns out only 24 people have faced criminal charges for igniting fires deliberately in New South Wales. And, only few of them managed starting large fires. Oh! And these people were charged over the course of three months. So, in reality no such thing happened.