As Hurricane Sandy pounded the East Coast Monday, the Internet was abuzz with dramatic pictures from the center of the storm.
Among the most widely circulated shots were pictures of waves crashing into the Statue of Liberty, massive storm clouds hovering over New York City, and soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery in the driving rain. There was just one problem: The pictures were either bogus or taken some other time.
“There were so many fake pictures of Sandy going around that it reached this point where you couldn’t believe anything you saw on the Internet,” says Ross and Burbank co-host Luke Burbank.
“I am a big defender of the Internet and I’m a big defender of Twitter and Facebook for being effective ways that information is disseminated quickly, but yesterday afternoon did not feel like a high point for those mediums telling us what was going on.”
It turns out the picture of the soldiers at Arlington was actually taken in September. Other storm shots were simply taken right out of the movies, or created in Photoshop. But that didn’t stop millions from spreading them around.
“Ironically, the real ones were better than the doctored ones,” says co-host Dave Ross. “Why post that when you have real, undoctored pictures of a flooded subway platform?”
One of Luke’s favorite fakes was a shot of a flooded McDonald’s, that was actually a shot of a French art installation. He says it just goes to show you how little many people actually think about what they share online.
“They just retweet and re-post on Instagram or Tumblr or their Facebook page whatever comes into their field of vision.”
The fakes became so widespread, a number of blogs and Tumblr pages dedicated to outing the bogus pictures starting cropping up Monday night nearly as fast as the dubious shots. The page “Is Twitter Wrong” compiled some of the best photos, including supposed shots of sharks swimming in the streets.