About five minutes after closing time, Notre-Dame, the famous medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, caught fire while undergoing renovation and restoration on the evening of 15 April 2019.
Burning for around 15 hours, parts the cathedral experienced serious damage. While the fire was put out eventually, the incident sparked numerous conspiracies that swirled around the web, particularly on social media networks like Twitter.
Some unpleasant speculations about what, how and who caused the fire were shared, with some top theories centered around a series of attacks on Christian churches throughout Europe. Several figures, including InfoWars have speculated these incidents could be connected to Notre-Dame’s blaze.
There were also some tweets speculating the fire was started by someone of another religious affiliation.
Another theory is that the fire was started by President Emmanuel Macron trying to take the media's focus away from him.
These heated debates commenced when an army of far-right activists backed the speculations by alternative media sites, which got their data mostly from a brief France 2 TV news clip that suggested there may have been two fires going at once under the cathedral's lead roof.
For believers, the fire can be linked to cultural heritage being neglected due to lack of funds.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the idea that the fire was started by an arsonist or terrorist, with some calling it the "French 9/11".
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have all signed on to a European disinformation "code of practice,"
But this Notre-Dame incident is an example of how speculations can still circulate on those platforms easily.
YouTube which has a feature designed to combat misinformation, has even linked the fire of Notre-Dame to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The company blamed the mix-up on its algorithms.
Conspiracy theories do spark whenever big crisis happened.
And when amplified by notable figures and prominent voices, the speculations further spark debates that may end for days if not weeks. In cases like the 9/11, theories continue for more than a decade.
Speculations can be misleading, and often dangerous as they can lead to even more violence.
As for the damages sustained by the cathedral, include parts of the roof which was made from 800-year-old wood. The fire collapsed the roof with ribbed vaulting, severely damaging it beyond repair in its original form. The roughly 330-foot roof, where the fire broke out, was one of the oldest of its kind in Paris, according to the cathedral’s website.
The cathedral’s iconic spire, or also known in France as “la fléche,” or arrow - was one of the most recognizable sights in all of Paris before it was destroyed by flames.
Burnt and damaged debris from above fell and also damaged the high altar inside the cathedral..
Eliciting an international response, France wants to rebuild Notre-Dame, as the site is one of the most widely recognized symbols of the city of Paris and the French nation.
As the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris, Notre-Dame contains the cathedra of the Archbishop of Paris (Michel Aupetit). It's also a place for the tunic of St. Louis and the crown of thorns, to name a few. Notre-Dame was the recipient of the honorary status of a minor basilica.
Approximately 12 million people visit Notre-Dame every year, making it the most visited monument in Paris.