TikTokers are trying to prove that snow in Texas is 'fake,' pushing a false conspiracy theory
- Conspiracy theories about the snow in Texas keep spreading online.
- TikTok videos show people claiming that snow should melt when heated. But it actually turns to gas.
- The videos baselessly questioning whether the snow is real follow a conspiracy theory that spread in 2014.
As power returns to homes in Texas after a rare winter storm, TikTok is full of videos spreading the bogus claim that the snow is fake and was engineered by the government.
Many of the TikToks show someone burning a snowball with a match. When the flame hits the snow, the snow does not melt - the TikTokers claim this indicates the snow is abnormal. In reality, all snow reacts this way. Through a process called sublimation, the solid snow turns into a gas.
While many of these TikToks take place in Texas, some are coming from the United Kingdom.
The bizarre weather in Texas, which has been linked to climate change, threatened the state's electricity infrastructure and forced power shutoffs that left millions of people in the freezing cold for days.
Misinformation has run rampant since the storm hit Texas last week. "Fake snow" was a top related-search query for "Texas snow" on Wednesday, while another false claim alleging that Bill Gates played a role in this "fake snow" ranked high among Texas-snow-related Google searches.
Gates has donated to a Harvard climate project called Scopex that's experimenting with ways to dim the sun in an effort to slow the effects of climate change. Climate-change-denying conspiracy theorists have frequently brought up Gates' donation, though the real sun-blocking experiment hasn't even begun.
Similar conspiracy theories spreading on Facebook and Telegram have also falsely claimed that President Joe Biden somehow caused the storm in Texas.
In one video, a TikTok user uses a blow-dryer on a snowball and says, "It's not melting." The video from the user, who has shared several videos of herself experimenting with the snow in the past few days, had 285,000 views.
Many Twitter users shared some "fake snow" TikToks to show how absurd they were.
In a video that was shared widely on Twitter but has since been removed from TikTok, a woman burns a snowball with a lighter. "Thank you, Bill Gates, for trying to f---ing trick us that this is real snow," she says. "You'll see it's not melting, and it's going to burn." The person who posted the TikTok on Twitter said in a subsequent tweet that they did not believe the video's claims.
—beer rat (@redbullbaby420) February 21, 2021
The hashtag #governmentsnow on TikTok had 1 million views as of Monday. One video with the hashtag claimed that if President Donald Trump were still in office, it would be spring.
As TikTok has rapidly increased in popularity in the past year, it has struggled to rein in misinformation on the platform. A TikTok representative did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. TikTok's community guidelines say it doesn't allow "misinformation related to emergencies that induces panic."
Yotam Ophir, an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo who researches media persuasion, told Insider that in times of crisis like the storm in Texas, people tend to "fall back on all kinds of biases and shortcuts that they use to make sense of the situation."
Naturally, some of those biases and shortcuts are "political in nature," Ophir said. When someone like Gates, who is frequently the subject of far-right conspiracy theories, becomes a popular scapegoat, that can be extremely appealing to people looking for answers.
Like most conspiracy theories, which are cyclical in nature, this one isn't new. The claim also circulated in January 2014, when the southern US had a rare snowstorm. News outlets debunked the claim; a CBS affiliate in Richmond, Virginia, explained sublimation in a YouTube video that has more than 100,000 views. Several of the top comments on Monday were from 2021, with some users still questioning the science and calling the video "bs."
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