lotters will be shot

Fake Photographs: Harvey Edition

As usual, fake and misleading images were circulated on social media in the wake of a storm that brought catastrophic flooding to the streets of Houston.

  • Dan Evon
  • Published 28 August 2017




It’s practically inevitable for fake or misleading photographs to circulate in the wake of a major natural disaster. So when images of the destruction from Hurricane Harvey first appeared on social media in late August 2017, many users were wary about which images they could trust.

With that in mind, here is a look at some of the most popular (and misleading) photographs that circulated in the wake of Hurricane Harvey:

Shark Swimming on the Highway?

An image purportedly showing a shark swimming down the highway tends to recirculate on social media after any event involving massive flooding. We first debunked this photograph in 2011 during Hurricane Irene, when it was shared along with the claim that it was taken in Puerto Rico. It popped up again in 2015 after heavy rains in Texas, in 2016 after Hurricane Matthew hit Florida, and, of course, in August 2017 after Hurricane Harvey caused heavy flooding in Houston.

This image, however, is actually a composite of at least two different photographs.

Obama Serves Flood Victims in Texas?

A 2015 photograph of President Obama ladling food onto a woman’s plate was attached to a 2017 claim that it showed the former President helping with the rescue effort in Texas:

The difference between #NotMyPresident &#MyPresident.

The entire Obama family is in Texas right now serving meals to flood victims. Guess the trumps are too busy going on vacation or playing golf to bother. Do not be surprised when Texas goes blue Republicans. That day is coming soon traitors.

This image is real, but it wasn’t taken in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. This picture was actually taken over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2015 at a homeless shelter in Washington.

Houston Airport Flooded?

Although Houston’s airports were flooded during Harvey, things weren’t quite as bad as they appeared in this image:

This image does not show an airport in Houston, nor does it show the impact of Hurricane Harvey. This is a digitally created mockup showing what LaGuardia Airport could look like in a future dramatically affected by climate change:

What LaGuardia Airport could look like at high tide with 5 feet of sea level rise, an amount that could occur by 2100, according to some estimates.

Alligator on the Loose?

A photograph purportedly showing an alligator on the streets of Houston was shared by journalist Katie Couric, but while it was taken in Houston, the alligator’s appearance is not at all related to the August 2017 floods:

Although this picture was truly taken in Houston, this image is not related to Hurricane Harvey. It was originally snapped in Fort Bend County by Chief Deputy Major Chad Norvell in April 2017. Couric later admitted that she had been “punked”:

Mmmm. She’s not answering. She lives in Houston but in nyc and someone sent to her…she sent to me-looks like a double punk! ?

Harvey Loot crew?

An image purportedly showing a store that had been looted in Houston by the #HarveyLootCrew was also circulated online:

This image, however, is not related to Hurricane Harvey. It was taken by April O’Brien of the Huffington Post and shows a store that was looted after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in 2012:

Mega Aid Pharmacy: Items were scattered throughout the store, and workers had no idea where or how to begin cleanup.

Fleeing in a Fridge?

A photograph showing three people using a refrigerator as a makeshift boat was also shared as if it were related to Hurricane Harvey:

This image is real, but it is not related to Hurricane Harvey. It was taken in April 2016 after heavy rains hit the Greenspoint area of Houston:

It was an area hit so hard that families had to escape their homes floating on air mattresses, dads carrying babies in bins, moms and babies riding in refrigerators and others too afraid to trudge through the water took help from strangers while waiting from aid from the City of Houston.

Trump Tweet?

In addition to fake photographs, we also saw at least one fake tweet supposedly sent by President Trump:

This tweet does not appear on Trump’s timeline, nor is it included in any of the various databases which archive tweets deleted by the president. This fake tweet was most likely created with a “tweet generator” in an attempt to mock some of the president’s genuine tweets (which some critics called “bombastic“) about the hurricane. In fact, this fake tweet could be considered a more exaggerated version of the following (genuine) messages:

Wow – Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!

I will also be going to a wonderful state, Missouri, that I won by a lot in ’16. Dem C.M. is opposed to big tax cuts. Republican will win S!

I will be going to Texas as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety.

Hurricane Harvey?

Although most of the fake Hurricane Harvey photographs we encountered focused on the flood waters, we came across one that purportedly showed the storm as it approached the shore: This image does not show Hurricane Harvey. It has been circulating since at least 2003 (when it was shared as an image of Hurricane Isabel) and is possibly a digital creation.

As usual, fake and misleading images were immediately circulated on social media in the wake of a storm that brought catastrophic flooding to the streets of Houston.

10 More Viral Photos That Are Actually Fake

The fakes just keep on coming. And frankly it’s hard to keep up with all the internet-fueled deception . Today we’re taking a look at a few more dubious images that you may have seen floating around the web recently. Punking Putin? Airplane selfies? Rocket to Uranus? Fake, fake, and definitely fake.

1) Is this a photo from the International Space Station?

No, this isn’t a solar eclipse as seen from the International Space Station.

Space photo researcher @FakeAstropix keeps debunking this one, but it keeps popping up in every corner of the internet. Which is why it’s earned our top spot today. It’s actually a rendering from DeviantArt user A4size-ska. Beautiful, but totally fake.

2) Did these women cause an accident wearing shorts in 1937?

According to Twitter accounts like HistoricalPics , the sight of two women wearing shorts in public for the very first time in 1937 was scandalous enough to cause the car accident above. Except that it didn’t. And it wasn’t the first time women wore shorts in public.

I contacted the City of Toronto Archives , and asked them about the image. They confirmed the date of the photo (1937) and said that it was not only staged, but that they have plenty of other photos of women wearing shorts that predate this one. Shorts weren’t common quite yet, but they were certainly around.

And if you spend even half a second looking at the image, you’ll notice plenty of clues that it’s a staged photo. The car doesn’t have a single dent. Those cheeky Canadians could’ve achieved a much more authentic look by plowing that car into a light pole at high speed. Go big or go home, historical photo spoofers!

3) Did Steven Seagal give Vladimir Putin bunny ears ?

No, Steven Seagal didn’t actually give Vladimir Putin “bunny ears” at a recent press event.

Despite getting to the front page of Reddit — an internet website that men’s rights activists keep telling me is the “front page of the internet” itself — this is a poorly done Photoshop job. The original image is from Getty and was taken back in March of 2013. But yes, Steven Seagal really does hang out with his bro Vlad. I bet they’re big fans of Reddit.

4) Is this Marilyn Monroe and JFK in a private embrace?

If it feels like we’ve been down this road before, it’s because we have . There are no known photos of JFK and Marilyn Monroe in a tender, romantic embrace. The photos above were taken by Alison Jackson , an artist well known for using lookalike models for photo-fakes of everyone from the Queen of England on the toilet to Bill Gates using Apple products.

5) Is this a security camera outside George Orwell’s house?

No, that’s not actually a CCTV camera outside George Orwell’s old house . It’s a photoshopped image by Steve Ullathorne that first took the internet by storm in February 2012. And it’s making the rounds yet again.

Ullathorne has an entire series of these photoshopped images that juxtapose buildings of historical significance with modern day flourishes — like that image on the right, showing a Che Guevara shirt hanging near a plaque about Karl Marx.

6) Is this 1950s “Rocket to Uranus” album real?

No, this isn’t a 1950s album cover for “Rocket to Uranus” made by oblivious people of a more earnest and naive era. It’s a fake.

Kids of the 1950s couldn’t get enough space age stories . Tom Corbett, Space Cadet was just one of many space age characters that young baby boomers were obsessed with. Corbett was everywhere: in comic books, on radio, plastered on lunchboxes and starring in an incredibly popular TV show during the 1950s.

In 1951, a Tom Corbett record was released called “Space Cadet Song and March.” But that “Rocket to Uranus” version on the left is a modern day Photoshop job.

7) Is this real candy that was branded by the Nazis?

In the 1930s and 40s, the Nazis put swastikas on everything. But this image actually isn’t a photo from that period. It’s from a 1983 movie.

To investigate this image I first contacted Dr. Nicholas O’Shaughnessy at Queen Mary University of London, who has studied the Nazis’ use of the swastika as a branding tool . He explained that he’d never seen this particular image but that, “it is quite possibly genuine as German businesses outdid each other in excesses of kitsch, including the Horst Wessel song in barbershop harmony and a butcher who sculpted Hitler out of lard.”

I was ready to call this photo “probably authentic” and move on, until Twitter photo sleuth Joe Kname uncovered the real story behind this image. Kname discovered that it’s a film still from the 1983 movie Eine Liebe In Deutschland (A Love in Germany). It’s still plausible that Nazi-branded candy was produced, as O’Shaughnessy notes that they really did put swastikas on everything. But this particular image isn’t from that era, as so many historical photo accounts online claim.

8) Is this a Captain America war bonds poster from World War II?

It wouldn’t be a fake viral image round-up without a visit to Retronaut , and this time we have a real doozy. No, that Captain America war bonds poster from their site isn’t real.

Captain America first debuted in 1941, which makes it possible that he would’ve helped with the war effort through various propaganda posters. But no, the image on the left isn’t from World War II. It’s a 21st century artist’s interpretation of what a faux-retro Captain America war bonds poster might look like. The big give-away — aside from the style itself — is the logo right next to Captain America’s boot.

The image on the right, however, is real and comes from a 1943 cover of the ” World’s Finest ” comic book. Thanks to Kinja user A.Hippo for pointing out the fake.

How has Retronaut gotten a book deal? I commented once on a gallery of WWII propaganda posters that

The fakes just keep on coming. And frankly it's hard to keep up with all the internet-fueled deception. Today we're taking a look at a few more dubious images that you may have seen floating around the web recently. Punking Putin? Airplane selfies? Rocket to Uranus? Fake, fake, and definitely fake. ]]>