October 30, 2012
Sandy carnage pics - real and fake
By Kristy Brownlee, QMI Agency
Twitter made it incredibly easy to track the carnage of superstorm Sandy in real time as it hammered the U.S. and Canada.
But the social media site has also made it a breeze for fake photos and information of the storm's wrath to go viral, said Sidneyeve Matrix, a professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., who specializes in social media and mass communications.
Residents in the U.S. East Coast snapped photos of massive trees uprooted by the hurricane and crashing down on powerlines, damaged cars, and massive waves crashing into the New York City coast.
Some jaw-dropping images are making the rounds though that appear to be straight out of a movie. One fake photo shows sharks swimming through the flooded streets of New York City, Mashable.com reported the same image popped up during hurricane Irene in 2011. Another is a snapshot of three uniformed men on guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns monument in the pouring rain that was advertised to have been taken when Sandy hit. The Old Guard U.S. infantry regiment confirmed on Twitter Monday night that the shot was actually photographed in September.
Users sent out 10 hurricane Sandy photos per second on the photo-sharing site Instagram Monday night, reported Mashable.
Matrix said social media users, including news organizations, have to be extra vigilant to weed out incorrect information.
"It's a great opportunity to track this unfolding story in multimedia, but the misinformation travels just as fast, maybe even faster," said Matrix.
Reuters mistakenly reported Monday night that 19 Con Edison power workers were trapped in a building in New York due to flooding, citing an unnamed witness. This spread like wildfire on Twitter, but Con Edison confirmed the report was false.
The ability to communicate messages quickly can be helpful in emergency situations, however. Twitter proved true when Sandy flooded low-lying areas of New York and led to the closures of public transit and shops.
"My friend has only so many hours left on his ventilator battery, at Broadway and Duane in Manhattan, anyone nearby have a generator?" @Lizhenry tweeted Monday night. It was retweeted more than 2,000 times before someone stepped up to help.
Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, tweeted: "Proud of Twitter right now."
- With files from Monique Beech