Oh, yeah, we expected a few religious nuts to claim it was the end times when an interesting, but so far harmless swarm of small earthquakes hit the Yellowstone Caldera again.
But who expected such nuttiness?
Legal action is being taken against a Web site operator who has misrepresented the U.S. Geological Survey in a warning that the area around Yellowstone National Park should be evacuated out of concern that the park’s supervolcano could erupt.
“We started to take action as soon as we found out about it,” said Jessica Robertson of the USGS, adding that the agency was notified on Friday.
The issue has been referred to the USGS’s solicitor’s office which is pursuing charges of impersonating a federal official as well as violation of the agency’s trademark.
“The main issue we have is we don’t want people to believe it’s coming from us,” Robertson said. [From the Billings (Montana) Gazette]
It’s a hoax, but a very pernicious hoax. In a world where people believe in all sorts of things that do not happen and take actions that hurt themselves and others as a result, hoaxing is not a good game to play.
(Update, evening of January 11, 2009: Here’s the site complained about; it appears he’s removed material that would make the site look like a USGS site.)
Was this guy under a belief that what he said was correct?
The issue highlights Nash’s concerns about where people get their news.
“There is a legitimate place to get this information; this is not it,” Nash said of the Web site [ Al Nash, the Yellowstone National Park's chief of public affairs]. “The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory is out there. You can find it. It is run by three really bright geologists. There’s really good monitoring in the park. Our offices would be the secondary place to go for information.”
Robertson said this isn’t the first time USGS has been falsely used in such claims. She said in June a YouTube video used the agency’s logo to lend legitimacy to a claim about the end of the world.
Earthquakes are very interesting. The Yellowstone is fascinating. These are good reasons to study the facts and events of nature. Hoaxes like this one, urging people to panic, play on the wealth of ignorance about science and nature, and scientists.
The only firm defense is good education and good information.
- From the Billings Gazette’s sidebar on good information:
- Bozeman (Montana) Daily Chronicle coverage of the hoax