Your guide to spotting ‘fake news’ about Harvey. (Hint: There’s no shark on the highway.)

Los Angeles Times

There are some truly astonishing photos coming out of the flooding in Houston. But there are also some astonishingly fake ones.

In general, it’s a good idea to take any particularly jaw-dropping image you see with a grain of salt. If you see items such as “Barack Obama serving meals Houston” or “Joel Osteen luxury yacht,” you might want to do a quick Google search before sharing. When stories come from unfamiliar sites, Google the name and check the site’s About page to make sure they aren’t trying to fool you on purpose.

The website Tineye lets you reverse-search an image based on the URL, so you can check to see where (and when) a photo came from. Right-click on an image, select “Copy Image Address,” and then paste it into Tineye’s search bar. Selecting “Oldest” from the drop-down menu usually yields the original source.


Here’s a guide to spotting some of the most notable “fake news” stories out there now:

There was no shark on the highway.

This is the hoax photo that refuses to go away. Every time there’s flooding, this shark makes another appearance.

This time it even made it onto Fox News, where commentator Jesse Watters said it was “like ‘Sharknado.’”

This photo of the Houston Hobby airport isn’t real.

Though there are many photos of planes in Houston partially underwater, this isn’t one of them. This is a Photoshopped image from 2013 of what LaGuardia Airport could theoretically look like in the year 2100 under the effects of climate change, published by the site Climate Central.


Black Lives Matter isn’t blocking rescuers.

The image is from CNN and shows protesters in Atlanta in July 2016.

What happened at Joel Osteen’s megachurch?

On Sunday night, an associate pastor said in a Facebook post and now-deleted Instagram remark that Joel Osteen’s Lakewood megachurch was “inaccessible due to severe flooding.” The church provided photos to media outlets that showed flooding in parts of the garage and what looked like an underground hallway. Photos and videos circulated on social media showing water rushing through the streets outside the church.

But people on social media questioned that the next day, when the roads looked mostly clear again, leading to criticism that the former basketball arena that holds 16,000 people was not opened to evacuees.

In a CNN interview, Don Iloff, a spokesman for the church and Osteen’s brother-in-law, said waters were within a foot of the top of the church’s flood gates around the building at one point. He said the church building had experienced extensive flooding during Hurricane Allison in 2001.


After photos on social media showed the waters had receded, Osteen tweeted that the church was open and accepting people who needed shelter. The building was available to people seeking shelter and supplies on Tuesday.

There was a second Osteen rumor as well:

Joel Osteen didn’t sail through Houston handing out copies of his book.

The Babylon Bee, a satire site (tagline: “Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire”), posted that the pastor was cruising around on his luxury yacht passing out copies of “Your Best Life Now” to people awaiting rescue on their roofs.

Not everyone caught on that it was satire.

Obama isn’t there serving meals.

President Barack Obama and family serve Thanksgiving meals to homeless and at-risk veterans at Friendship Place in Washington, D.C. in November 2015.
(Pool / Getty Images)

People on social media are sharing photos that show former President Obama serving plates of food. The photos are from 2015, when the Obama family served Thanksgiving meals to homeless and at-risk veterans in Washington, D.C.

And that’s not the only Obama myth floating around:

Obama, um, wasn’t president during Hurricane Katrina.

Back in August 2005, Barack Obama was the junior senator from Illinois. George W. Bush was president. But that hasn’t stopped a subset of Twitter users from speculating about Obama’s response to the disaster.

For many, “golfing” was the go-to guess:

This one shows a photo of Condoleeza Rice, though the tweet identifies Michelle Obama.