In Brief

CLAIM: There was a rock fall on the Antrim coast road on 9 August 2017.

CONCLUSION: False. The image is a cropped version of one published in a local American newspaper, reporting on a rock fall that took place in Lawrence County, Ohio, on 10 April 2015.

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A rock fall on the Antrim coast road?

On 9 August 2017, Jim Owens of Belfast published a Facebook post about a rock falling onto the Antrim coast road:

Owens said, “I had to brake hard after a roadrunner and coyote passed me at speed”, which is a reference to the cartoon characters by Warner Brothers.

Many people commenting on the post took it at face value, some expressing their thankfulness that they habitually avoided the coast road with its failing rocks triangular warning signs and used the overland route instead. A few people questioned whether it was true, one noted that it hadn’t been mentioned on news bulletins, while another pointed out that the road markings looked unfamiliar. But it was three and a half days after the original post — 656 shares later — that someone finally debunked the post saying: “This is a fake photo it happened in Ohio usa”:

FactCheckNI 032 - Rock Antrim Road - OWENS 02

Heard this one before

A Google Image search revealed the following Facebook post by Gabi Butler, published on 15 July 2015 (over two years earlier); she also made a reference to a roadrunner and coyote:

The image in Owen’s posting appears as a cropped version of Butler’s.

A real rock fall

Further Google image research revealed the original source of the image, from a rockfall in Lawrence County, Ohio on 10 April 2015, published in The Highland County Press (image by Ohio Department of Transportation, District 9):

FactCheckNI 032 - Rock Antrim Road - Highland

Submitting this Highland County Press image to FotoForensics revealed no discernible image manipulation.

Making false news more believable

FactCheckNI contacted Owens, who acknowledged the posting was made up from him cropping an image and “didn’t have a clue” where the image came from. He also quipped, “False news should be a bit more believable to be taken seriously!”

Conclusion

The claim is false: this image is for a rock fall that happened in Ohio on 10 April 2015. There was no rock fall on the Antrim coast road reported elsewhere. The author of the claim appears to have recycled the image from another Facebook posting (and applied a crop to it). While many saw a humorous intent, some took the posting at face value. Using Google image search quickly revealed this image being published previously and in an authoritative context. Furthermore, the image published by a local newspaper does not appear to have been an altered version. Finally, the author of the original posting acknowledged that he created this piece of “false news”.