The photos of the huge floods currently submerging Texas are shocking enough — but some people have started posting fake images online, only adding to the storm of fake news around the disaster.


Hurricane Harvey — later downgraded to a tropical storm — is the biggest storm in the history of the state, resulting in serious flooding and a record amount of rainfall. A state of emergency has been declared, and over 20 people are reported dead. More than 13,000 people have been rescued.

Some pretty shocking images have circulated on social media, such as this one of an alligator swimming in someone's garden, or whole families sitting on the roofs of their houses awaiting rescue.

The shark on the highway hoax

One of the most retweeted images under the hashtag #HurricaneHarvey is one of a shark swimming along a highway in Houston. It has been retweeted over 80,000 times.

The man who tweeted it out quickly added that it was fake news, but not before it had already started to gain traction online. He has not yet deleted it, but wrote a long blog post explaining why he deliberately posted a fake image. He wrote that these kinds of images are "bubble gum for the brain" - easy to create, easy to turn viral, and dangerous if co-opted by more "sinister" groups. He concludes, "If this tweet did all this in one day, imagine what is being done by well-funded, highly ideological, and heretofore fringe extreme right-wing political groups."


Did Black Lives Matter activists block the way of emergency services? Of course not!

It's not all sharks. Since Friday, several right-wing websites have stated that emergency services were unable to get to Houston to help people needing rescue because of Black Lives Matter activists deliberately blocking the road in protest against President Donald Trump.

The article first published on the site "Land of the free, home of the brave".

A completely fake story bolstered by an old image. The photo is actually a still from an old news report by CNN showing protesters in Atlanta — over 1000km from Houston — at a demonstration against police violence in 2016.

A screengrab of the CNN report.

Barack Obama giving out aid to victims?
Nope — old photos

Another example, but this time from the other side of the political divide: photos of former president Barack Obama in soup kitchens handing out food and helping with the relief effort. Current President Donald Trump has been criticised for his slowness to respond to the disaster (he only travelled to the affected areas on Tuesday, four days after the storm first made landfall in Corpus Christi).

 
This post was deleted on Tuesday evening.

Photos of Obama were shared over 300,000 times on Facebook but aren't from Hurricane Harvey at all: the first photo actually dates from January 15, 2014, on Martin Luther Day, when the former president was serving food at a shelter. The second photo was taken in August 2016 when Obama visited Louisiana after severe flooding.
 

Houston airport underwater? No, it's just art

Another photo that has made the rounds is this one, showing aeroplanes almost submerged in water and described as having been taken at Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport.


But the photo isn't real: it's a composed image of what LaGuardia airport in New York could look like with a rise in sea level. It was created by Nickolay Lamm for Climate Central as a visual representation of the effects of climate change.
 

Have you seen a photo or video that you think needs debunking? Something fishy out there on the internet? Let us know about it by emailing us at observers@france24.com or contacting us on Facebook or Twitter!
Article written with
Alexandre Capron

Alexandre Capron , Journaliste francophone