There is a new trend in the world of disinformation: pseudo-scientific videos. These short videos on social media show a “scientific experiment” or a 3D model performing an astonishing trick, all along with the caption that says “Physics is cool!” These videos may seem like harmless pastimes, but they are just the visible part of a lucrative business that steals artists’ work and exploits it for screenings and money.
You may have already seen a video of an “ellipsography”, or perhaps one of a coin spinning between the “magnetic fields” of three batteries. These videos, and many others like them, claim to show how “amazing” physics is – but they are actually fake.
The types of accounts that share these videos on Twitter all have very similar names: @zone_astronomy, @Physicsastronmy, @amazing_physics or @physicsvids_. They regularly post videos that they have uploaded from the online forum Reddit, often without crediting the original exercise designer or digital artist and without specifying that these videos are often graphic creations.
Some examples of Twitter accounts that specialize in fake physics or science videos. © Observers / Twitter The man who investigates the fake physics accounts
On Twitter, the @PicPedant account debuts these fake science videos. The man behind the account is Paulo Ordoveza, an American living in Canada. He told the JowharObservers team:
What I have often noticed is that these image spam accounts get their content from Reddit via automatic posting [using for example the software Buffer].
Other times, the sponsored retweets make other content. Of course, the whole point of automatic posts is to make money. For that, they offer to retweet content from brands or marketing specialists and to get paid for it. But they do not do it directly: they always use an intermediate Twitter account which they then retweet.
Example of a Tweet that advertises health products via the “Classic Pics” account that often forwards iconic photos. According to Paulo Ordoveza, this is an example of retweeting a post in exchange for payment. © Twitter I’ve also noticed that spam accounts often use extremely generic-sounding captions for videos so that Reddit subtitles can not be searched back to sources – or maybe just because they’re lazy.