How the #10yearchallenge sparked lots of fake and misleading images

Be careful before you share viral #10yearchallenge posts...
Be careful before you share viral #10yearchallenge posts...


The idea behind the #10yearchallenge, the newest challenge to sweep the internet, is to juxtapose two images, taken ten years apart. However, quite a few people have been sharing doctored images… or pairing two photos that don’t have anything to do with one another in order to create misleading messages. We’ve highlighted three examples.

1) The #10yearchallenge and global warming

One of the most widely shared "10-Year Challenge" posts on Twitter supposedly shows the melting polar ice caps. The photo on the left, which is labelled “2008”, shows a massive glacier. The photo on the right shows just a few small icebergs floating in the sea.


It’s true that the polar ice caps are melting at a faster rate than ever before. In fact, the ice in the Antarctic is melting at a rate six times faster than it was 40 years ago, according to a report published by the journal of the American National Academy of Sciences. However, these two photos have nothing to do with one another.

The photo on the left wasn’t taken in 2008 – it’s from 2016. It shows the Getz Ice Shelf, in the Antarctic Ocean. The photo was taken by scientist Jeremy Harbeck, who was there on a mission for NASA.


This screengrab was taken from the NASA website.

The photo on the right was indeed taken in 2018 as the label suggests. However, this photo wasn’t taken anywhere near the Getz Ice Shelf. A scientist named Julienne Stroeve, who works with the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), actually took this photo in the Arctic, at the polar opposite of the globe from the Getz Ice Shelf.


Screengrab of NSIDC’s website.

A lot of social media users weren’t fooled by this tweet and they called out Nicolas Bilodeau, the author of the tweet, for spreading false information. Bilodeau explained that he wanted to “defend planet Earth” and that he was going to donate money to an environmental organisation in the wake of this whole scandal. When interviewed by the fact-checking team at AFP Factuel, Bilodeau justified his choice as “artistic license”.

If you want to share the correct information about these photos, we’ve created an easy-to-read graphic that explains where the photos really come from. Feel free to share it on social media to help deflate rumours and spread the truth!

2) A river that turned orange in the past ten years? False!

Lots of people used the #10yearchallenge to talk about the environment, most often sharing pictures of environmental degradation that has taken place over the past ten years. One post that was widely circulated showed pictures of a river that supposedly went from running clear to running a ghastly shade of orange in the past ten years.

But as pointed out by the Twitter account @hoaxeye, which specialises in the verification of fake images, these photos don’t actually show environmental degradation over a sustained period. These photos actually show an environmental disaster that occurred in 2015, when waste water from the Gold King mine in Silverton, Colorado spilled into a neighbouring river.

At the time, employees from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who were trying to treat wastewater from the abandoned gold mine accidentally released the toxic waste into the Animas River watershed. In a few hours, the river had turned orange.

Today, the river has (thankfully) returned to its normal colour.


3) A hoax image of Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron resurfaces

The #10yearchallenge also caused some old hoaxes to resurface. One was the photo supposedly showing Brigitte Macron with her future husband, Emmanuel, as a child – an effort to exaggerate their age gap.

The journalists at Checknews, a fact-checking platform run by French daily newspaper Libération, debunked this hoax back in 2018. They showed that the photo was actually a montage made up of two different photos from a documentary about the French president.


Screengrab from the French documentary La Stratégie du météore.

Screengrab from the French documentary La Stratégie du météore.

Viral challenges like the #10yearchallenge often result in misleading or hoax images being shared widely --  it is important to stay vigilant. Before sharing false information, take a few minutes to verify the images you are looking at by checking out our verification guide.