How many fake Sandy pictures were really shared on social media?
Crisis events today (from wars and uprisings to natural disasters) are highly mediated - it is through iconic images that we experience and remember them. With the development of social media, such events have seen the production and sharing of vast amounts of user-generated content, including photographs and videos. Images snapped and shared by ordinary people on their mobile phones can form part of the official information stream, be picked up by the mainstream media, or simply serve to document personal experience. In fact, our team's research on Twitter use during the 2011 Queensland Floods showed that images and videos were shared more than any other category of content – including official emergency information and mainstream news reports.
Hurricane Sandy was no different, except perhaps for the controversies surrounding the circulation of fake or photoshopped storm images, an issue widely covered in the media, as social media users raced to question and debunk the fakes. Storyful editor Fiona McCann highlighted how to spot a fake, advising Google image searches, the use of TinEye, and to take care when retweeting.