On Wednesday afternoon California residents were shocked to learn that a powerful earthquake had supposedly hit the Pacific Ocean about 10 miles off the coast of Santa Barbara. They were probably just as surprised to learn a few minutes later that the magnitude 6.8 quake had actually happened in 1925. The Los Angeles Times reports that a staffer at the California Institute of Technology mistakenly triggered an alert while correcting information about the location of the 92-year-old quake for the US Geological Survey's earthquake database. An email was then sent out from the USGS email server claiming that the 1925 quake was set to occur on June 29, 2025. The Washington Post reports that email alert automatically generated a story on the Times site through an algorithm called Quakebot.
The HuffPost reports that several automated tweets synced to the USGS server were sent out as well, causing confusion. USGS corrected the mistake on Twitter shortly after the initial alert went out and followed up with a more detailed explanation on its website within a half hour. The Times sent out tweets explaining the mistake and blaming the original USGS alert. The paper also tweeted a picture of its front-page coverage of the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake, which, it reported at the time, “demolished or seriously damaged virtually all brick concrete and stone structures in the city,” "virtually wrecked" a famous hotel, and forced the city's 30,000 residents to evacuate their homes and sleep outside. (Read more USGS stories.)