Rumors and conspiracy theories: Authorities try to stamp out Maui wildfire disinformation

Governor Josh Green blasted social media posts that he and others say are spreading misinformation about the Lahaina fires
Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 9:34 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 16, 2023 at 10:57 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Government officials are blasting social media posts that they say are spreading misinformation about the Maui wildfires, especially the blaze in Lahaina that has so far claimed 111 lives.

“Do not rely on people who fancy themselves as influencers,” Gov. Josh Green said at a briefing Wednesday.

There have been posts speculating about the cause of the fire and also claims that federal emergency agencies can’t be trusted.

Special Section: Maui Wildfires

“You have people who have predators on social media. We know that for a fact. We have people who want to spread negativity,” the governor said.

One post claimed FEMA was confiscating shipping containers loaded with supplies for Maui.

FEMA has its own social media, and said it’s actually just coordinating with relief agencies. Another FEMA post tries to debunk a rumor that people who apply for federal assistance could have their property confiscated.

“After a crisis like this, trust in government really does suffer, and the only way to overcome that is for our public officials to deliver consistent messages, to deliver high quality services as quickly as possible,” said HNN political analyst Colin Moore.

Meanwhile, Hoku Award-winning rapper and recording artist Thomas Ianucci took to his Instagram page, pleading with people to stop posting misinformation.

“It wasn’t the government doing an inside job to try to take out kanaka. It wasn’t a space laser or something like that. It’s just a horrible tragedy,” he said in the post.

“It’s hard already to find the correct info, but it’s getting hard to find almost any info, because if you go on TikTok, you look up the Maui fires or Lahaina, that stuff is all kine conspiracy stuff,” Ianucci told HNN.

The Lahaina wildfire has brought unimaginable devastation, heartbreak and loss.

“I think a week of some understandable chaos in this tragic situation is understandable,” said Moore. “But now I think residents should expect and deserve very clear communications from the state and from the county.”

Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen had his own message at the press briefing.

“The reason you should trust us is because this is our home. The reason you should trust us is because we’re the ones who suffered the loss. That’s the reason you should trust us.”