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Express online headline claiming Yellowstone volcano eruption was 'imminent' not supported by scientific research, IPSO rules

The Express has been rapped for an online article warning in the headline that an eruption of Yellowstone volcano in the US was “imminent”, despite citing scientific research which did not back up the claim.

The article was published on 22 March under the headline: “Yellowstone eruption IMMINENT: Supervolcano ‘anomaly’ triggers fears of volcano to blow.”

In its introduction, the article reported that Yellowstone volcano “could be on the brink of cataclysmic eruption after a pair of researchers uncovered a magma ‘anomaly’ stretching across the country under the deadly super volcano”.

It included a number of tweets from people “posting warning messages” about the new findings.

Despite the headline claim, the article went on to say: “Thankfully none of the findings presented in the study suggest Yellowstone is moments away from submerging the US in a volcano sea of magma.”

It also said the US Geological Survey had stated there was “no immediate indication of danger”, and that a volcanologist said an apocalyptic eruption would eventually come “but not for another one to two million years”.

After an individual complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the Express accepted the headline and introduction to the story were significantly misleading.

It admitted they had been based on social media reaction to the study rather than the research itself, and that this had not been made clear enough.

IPSO upheld a breach of Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, saying the inaccuracy had not been mitigated by the inclusion of contradictory information further down the article.

The regulator said: “Stating that the research had suggested an imminent eruption, when it had not, was a significant inaccuracy which substantively affected the thrust of the article.”

It also said the article had failed to distinguish between conjecture and fact.

The Express has since amended the article, with the headline now reading: “Yellowstone: experts confirm ‘anomaly’ – ‘no need for concern’ as volcano ‘on dying cycle’”.

A correction at the bottom of the article tells readers it has been amended and sets out the original headline and introduction, adding: “In fact the research conducted by Stephen Grand and Peter Nelson was confined to the investigation to a ‘mantle plume’ beneath Yellowstone driving volcanic activity.

“Their research did not make any claim that an eruption was imminent.

“Consequently our headline and introduction have been amended. We are happy to set the record straight.”

Read the full IPSO ruling here.

Picture: Flickr/James St. John

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