News or Noise: Hurricane Harvey hoaxes hit social media

August 30, 2017 11:55 PM

You can't trust everything you read. In our News or Noise segment, Jennifer Mobilia sorts out the fact from fiction circulating online.

Social media can be very helpful for communicating with family and friends during natural disasters.

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But sadly, sometimes people use social media during disasters to make a hoax go viral. Wednesday, we're looking at a few Hurricane Harvey posts that went viral over the past couple of days and -- with help from our NBC affiliate in Houston -- we're determining if they're News or Noise.

Jason Michael tweeted a photo, saying: "Believe it or not, this is a shark on the freeway in Houston." Although this picture had been retweeted more than 85,000 times at last check – it's noise.

Multiple posts forced the City of Houston to take to Twitter to squash rumors about immigration status and access to shelters – tweeting, "We will not ask for immigration status or papers from anyone at a shelter. This rumor is false."

Even the news media got duped. A tweet from KPLC – an NBC affiliate in Louisiana. "Houston hang on, the Cajun Navy is already activated and on the way."

The Cajun Navy was deployed to Houston but the photo included in a tweet was taken last year. Another photo shows commercial jets almost completely underwater. Look closely and you'll see this is LaGuardia Airport. The photo is an altered photo used to show the potential effect of future climate change.

And here's another gator tweet – this one from Katie Couric that says "look who wandered into my friend's Houston 'hood."  This gator did in fact visit Fort Bend County, Texas in April– but not during Hurricane Harvey.

So as the recovery efforts continue in Houston, make sure you're careful about what you share on social media -- many posts are not what they seem.


Jennifer Mobilia

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