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Viral Facebook pages are passing off old space clips as live footage to millions of viewers

Viral Facebook pages are passing off old space clips as live footage to millions of viewers

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Coming to you not live from space.

Facebook has been pushing live video as its next big format for a while now, and that means there are plenty of media outlets trying to take advantage of the extra visibility. Some, though, aren’t being so honest about it, with Mashable pointing out this week that some viral Facebook pages have been passing off archive footage from the International Space Station as live streams from off the planet.

UNILAD and Viral USA are two pages that tricked viewers in this way, launching hours-long "live" streams from space earlier this week. At the time of writing, UNILAD’s has attracted more than 19 million views since its broadcast, shared under the text "Space from the International Space Station! Where in the world are you watching from?" You can see in the video thumbnail, though, that the two Russian cosmonauts are actually carrying the Olympic Torch for the 2014 Winter Games — a spacewalk that took place in November 2013.

A screenshot showing UNILAD’s "live" stream from the ISS.
A screenshot showing UNILAD’s "live" stream from the ISS.

Viral USA’s video, broadcast on Wednesday, has now amassed some 28 million views and was shared with the text "View From SPACE! FOLLOW US: Viral USA." The footage appears to have come from a 2015 spacewalk by US astronaut Terry Virts and NASA has confirmed to Gizmodo that the footage was certainly not live.

In both cases, neither outlet explicitly described the footage as a live stream, but they didn’t need to given that Facebook delivered to users as exactly that. Reading over the comments certainly confirms that users thought they were seeing real live footage, with many marveling over how good the internet is in space, complaining about wasting government tax dollars, or arguing that the whole thing was fake anyway.

When asked by BBC News why it had uploaded old footage as a live stream, UNILAD said it was just to "test the capabilities of what the 'live broadcast' feature on Facebook could really do." A test that also racked up millions of views and shares for the UNILAD Facebook page.

If you’re interesting in watching a legitimate live stream from outer space though, NASA usually broadcasts its spacewalks when they occur, and there’s a constant live stream running from cameras on the outside of the ISS.