The jarring photographs of flames tearing through the Amazon have captured attention around the world, but they may not always be what they seem.
The fires have prompted global calls for a boycott of Brazil, whose far-right president has cut back on protection of wild lands, but many of the images widely shared online by politicians, celebrities and others depict events from different places and even eras.
Take the Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, who on Thursday shared one such image with his 120 million Facebook followers and nearly 80 million Twitter followers, adding, “It’s our responsibility to help to save our planet.”
On Wednesday, the musician Jaden Smith shared a different photo on Instagram with his 13 million followers that showed an aerial view of a snaking fire consuming what appeared to be a forest, noting, accurately and in all caps, that the Amazon is one of the world’s biggest carbon sinks.
What his post didn’t make clear is that the photo appeared to be three decades old, which is so old, in fact, that it was taken at a time when his father, Will Smith, was still starring in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
The same day that Jaden Smith shared that image, Leonardo DiCaprio shared another with his 34 million followers that showed a verdant thicket of trees engulfed in smoke. The singer Ricky Martin and President Emmanuel Macron of France also shared that image, but none identified its source.
There are other examples of photos misleadingly used to raise awareness. Some feature an elephant, which is not native to the Americas, in apparent distress, its back feet in flames.
Others showcase a mother monkey, her head titled skyward and her mouth agape as she holds a limp baby. That photo was taken in India a few years ago, according to The Telegraph — the baby, which had just tripped, was soon back on its feet, the photographer told the publication.