The finer details of what happened to the RMS Titanic vary depending on who tells the story.
Iceberg that collided with luxury liner found 11:40 p.m.according to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, or 11:35 p.m., which is what the New York exhibit about the ship claims.Royal Museums Greenwich says cost of doomed ship 1,503 people their lives, while America’s Smithsonian Institution claims 1,522 passengers and crew died.
Historians attribute the discrepancy to factors such as imperfect ticket lists and hasty headcounts transmitted using weak signals. However, there is no problem with broad strokes. All credible experts agree that on April 15, 1912, less than a week after her maiden voyage, the Titanic finally sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean.
More than a century later, a very different version is circulating on TikTok. In a post that garnered more than 11 million views before it was deleted earlier this year, one user wrote: “The Titanic never sank!!!”
On the short-video app, long-standing facts about the debacle are being reopened as well-worn rumors meld with fresh misinformation and manipulated content — a sign of TikTok’s power, even in research The seeds of historical revisionism can also be sown in the most profound cases.
A 32-second post opens with a dramatic black-and-white image of the Titanic, choppy on waves filled with people, set to an eerie synth tune. A man in a hoodie and backwards baseball cap, roughly obscured from the frame, makes a familiar argument (accompanied by a screaming emoji): “The Titanic actually started from Unsunk.” Looking into the camera, he repeated the alleged and thoroughly refuted “swap” theory – that the wreck on the ocean floor belonged to the Titanic’s older sister ship, the Olympic, which sank due to insurance fraud.
Another video advanced a conspiracy theory that the crash was a “crack job” ordered by financier JPMorgan Chase – whose real name was John Pierpont Sr. – to eliminate opponents of the Fed.
Skepticism about the Titanic has outraged scholars who have studied the ship since its sinking. Then, in December, marked the 25th anniversary of the release of 1997’s “Titanic,” a big-budget, heart-pounding epic that layered heady romance on fictional accounts of disaster.
Celebrations include a re-release of the film in theaters on Valentine’s Eve.There was also a flurry of news reports about the work of director James Cameron with scientists and stuntmen Settling an ongoing debate about a pivotal scene in the film that centers on how many star-crossed lovers can survive on a door floating in icy water. (Tests have shown that actually two people can make it.)
Mr Cameron’s experiment appears to have fueled a slew of conspiracy theories on TikTok about the real Titanic – many of which were cobbled together from a sea of assumed and misunderstood evidence and presented in playful online commentary. Posted in installments.
“It’s kind of demoralizing to see a lot of this trash coming out,” said Charles A. Haas, founder of Titanic International, who spent 60 years studying the ill-fated ship . He’s co-authored five books on the subject, twice dived into shipwreck sites, and debunked more conspiracy theories than he can count. “I feel like I’m one of the few voices speaking out against the hurricane.”
The Titanic International Association, one of several historic organizations around the world dedicated to Titanic research, has Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, but no presence on TikTok. Mr Haass attributed the decision in part to concerns that TikTok’s reputation as a “kind of wild and hairy place” would taint any serious research shared on the platform.
“If you have a nice filet mignon and you wrap it in stinky fish, the filet won’t smell as good after a while,” he said.
TikTok is just the latest recycling bin for false narratives about the Titanic that began circulating almost after the ship sank.
A month after the shipwreck, The Washington Post raised the possibility that the tragedy stemmed from the “ancient malice” of a mummified Egyptian priestess after an editor dared to plead to the Titanic The other passengers cursed him after telling her story. Others have tried to attribute the high death toll to German submarine Winston Churchill, sabotage-minded Catholic shipyards, or decks that could be electromagnetically sealed to prevent escape of passengers below, but are convincing. Freemasonry was accused of plotting a cover-up.
Such conspiracy theories are a source of deep and familiar irritation for Mr. Haas, who for years has disbelieved that wild stories about a widely documented disaster can continue to find audiences through books, so-called documentaries and now video apps .
“Sadly, a lot of the people looking at this sort of thing are teenagers, and they’re very reluctant to dig,” he said.
TikTok, which claims 150 million U.S. users and is especially popular with young people, has been, and is, a particularly powerful vehicle for spreading misinformation. A period of violent dictatorship in the Philippines decades ago has recently been rewritten on TikTok as a good time for economic growth. A pawnbroker on the app last year claimed to have an album of never-before-seen photos of the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, but later said the disturbing photos, which attracted nearly 52 million views, were actually from “Copy Souvenirs” in Shanghai.
Like other social media platforms, TikTok seeks to suppress some harmful historical lies, such as efforts to Holocaust denial, while working to combat more modern lies about elections, health hacking, and other topics. (The company is owned by the Chinese internet company ByteDance, which has also been fighting for its future in the United States over national security concerns.)
TikTok spokesman Ben Rathe said: “Our top priority is protecting our community, which is why we remove misinformation that causes significant harm and work with independent fact-checkers to help assess The accuracy of the content on our platform.” Under its guidelines, the company blocks some videos from the feed that feature conspiracy theories, such as those claiming that “secret or powerful groups” carried out events. But the app doesn’t block those videos entirely.
While many younger users on TikTok can identify conspiracy theories and make fun of them, this generation is also struggling to understand the past.Eighth graders’ mastery of U.S. history has declined every year since 2014, data shows a federal standard. another vote Asked last year whether NASA astronauts have ever landed on the moon — nearly half of the participants born after 1997 said they hadn’t or were unsure.
According to a recent survey of young Americans who use TikTok for more than an hour a day, 17% “couldn’t definitively say that the earth is round,” said Reboot Foundation, a Paris-based nonprofit that promotes media literacy and critical thinking.
“Fundamentally, a 14-year-old may be taught at school that the Earth is round and may believe it, but with the frequency of repeated viewings of the video, they begin to question it,” said Helen Lee Bouygues, who started Reboot Helen Lee Bouygues says the foundation helps fight misinformation. She said the group found that “the longer young people use TikTok, the more they believe what they see.”
Misinformation experts say TikTok’s algorithm and the personalized feeds it creates for users make it particularly powerful at spreading conspiracy theories. To surface content to users, the system relies less on social connections and followers, such as Twitter and Facebook, and more on engagement, said Megan Brown, a senior research engineer at New York University’s Center for Social Media and Politics.
“If someone takes the time to watch the video, whether they really believe that JPMorgan sank the Titanic or whether they believe, hey, this is an interesting video, someone is talking about JPMorgan sinking the Titanic,” Ms. Brown said. “In the case of TikTok, it’s the same signal, so they recommend more of this.”
Mr. Morgan, whose White Star Line owns the Titanic, plays a big part in Titanic lore. The TikTok video echoes decades-old claims that the millionaire backed out of a planned trip minutes or hours before the Titanic set sail because he intended to use the ship to assassinate opposition to his creation of a central bank A formidable enemy of systematic effort. (In some accounts, TikTok’s creators have reimagined the villains as wealthy Rothschilds or even the Jesuit Catholic Church.)
Experts point out that historical records and common sense do not support this claim. Evidence suggests Mr Morgan failed to date the Titanic because he was dealing with an unexpected situation involving his European art collection. The businessman also had to make sure the Titanic would strike the iceberg with catastrophic force and that his opponent wasn’t among the 700-plus people who crashed.
Of course, history isn’t static — especially when the technology for record-keeping wasn’t all that advanced — and experts often disagree. Parks Stephenson, a naval veteran who has visited the wreck several times, advised Mr Cameron in a 2003 documentary about the ship. He argues that the iceberg damaged the bottom of the ship rather than the sides, conflicting with the views of many fellow Titanic scholars.
The consensus, though: the Titanic sank in a terrible accident that killed many people. Mr Stephenson said acknowledging the true fate of the ship made the tragedy a valuable tool: a way of understanding communications breakdowns, improvements in safety regulations, marine science, underwater forensics and arrogance and heroism in times of crisis.
“On a grand scale, historical research prevents you from repeating the mistakes you made in the past and keeps you moving forward,” said Mr. Stephenson, now executive director of the USS Kidd Veterans Museum.
The Titanic conspiracy theory seems relatively innocuous, especially in the modern environment where online lies have caused real-world harm, such as the gunman who attacked the Capitol or a pizzeria. Untrue rumors about a 111-year-old shipwreck have fallen into the void of social media companies already struggling to tackle contemporary lies with content moderators.
Ms Brown said the concern was the long-term erosion of truth and the idea that “people who believe in at least one conspiracy theory tend to believe in at least one conspiracy theory”.
Charming someone with one false narrative is easier to bait them with another: “Hey, if you’ve heard about the Titanic, you’re not going to believe any other cover-up,” she said. “
Without TikTok’s intervention, some users have taken matters into their own hands.
Rafael Avila, 33, a technology consultant for IBM and known as the “Titanic guy” on TikTok in his spare time, has amassed more than 600,000 likes on TikTok since 2020 fans, and often posts videos to debunk conspiracy theories about the sinking.
“These theories have always existed within the Titanic community, but they’ve always been on the fringes,” said Mr. Avila, who lives in Toronto and has been researching. obsessed I grew up with the Titanic. TikTok changed that, he said. “When the first couple of videos were about the Olympic theory, the Fed theory, the algorithm took notice and saw that people were engaging with it, and then it started blowing up.”
When Mr. Avila joined the app to share his passion for the Titanic story, he quickly added debunking videos to his repertoire using TikTok’s easy-to-use editing tools, such as the ability to “splice” or “due” videos , to fact-check false ideas by promoting them. Now, whenever a Titanic conspiracy theory video goes viral, his followers routinely tag him so he can roll up his sleeves and film the facts. Truth-laden TikTok videos don’t get as many views as conspiracy-theory-laden ones, but they can still attract millions of eyeballs, he said.
“My community of titanic nerds wanted me to correct the record, so I made it my responsibility,” he said. “It’s the internet and people can say whatever they want.”