Claim: A chain message circulated through messaging apps claims that ABS-CBN weatherman Kuya Kim Atienza and television network BBC warned the public to turn off their cellphones between 10:30 pm and 3:30 am because those units could emit strong radiation within that span of time due to cosmic rays and "nucli atomic."
The claim was flagged by readers, who emailed Rappler for a fact check. It was also spotted through Facebook Claim Check, a tool that identifies suspicious social media posts that have gone viral on the platform.
The facts: The chain message is an old, previously-debunked claim. ABS-CBN weatherman Kuya Kim Atienza denied the claim in his tweet dated January 12, 2020.
"This is a recycled 10 year old fake news. They always spread it when a disaster happens. Totally not true," Atienza said in his tweet.
The claim appears to be a combination of hoaxes first circulated in Ghana and the Philippines in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
The first claim was widely circulated through text messages in Ghana in January 2010, soon after the Haiti earthquake. It talked about an alleged BBC report about cosmic rays from Mars which were supposed to hit the Earth and implied that these meant an earthquake was imminent.
The second claim circulated in the Philippines in March 2011, soon after the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan had a reactor meltdown. Again, the claim referred to an alleged BBC story, which supposedly reported that radiation from Fukushima had gone beyond Japan. The hoax was widely shared in the Philippines.
The BBC denied airing both reports.
Versions of the chain message on "cosmic rays" that reappeared on January 12 were also circulated in the Philippines sometime in 2014 and were debunked by GMA News, ABS-CBN, and Philippine Star. A Philippine Star article published on September 20, 2014, said state science agencies had no public warning about the alleged cosmic rays event.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised the alert over Taal Volcano to Level 4 after the volcano spewed ash. It had a phreatic eruption in the afternoon of Sunday, January 12, 2020. At least 23,701 people have fled their homes in Batangas province as of 5 am Monday, January 13, as Taal Volcano continues to spew ash. – Glenda Marie Castro/Rappler.com
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