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Twitter works up a storm over looting images

If you believed everything you read on Twitter about superstorm Sandy you would probably be disturbed by what appears to be looters posting pictures of goods they say they have stolen.

In the aftermath of Sandy, numerous pictures of people with "stolen goods" have been posted on the microblogging website with the hashtag #sandylootcrew.

The media has covered the posting of the pictures and many on Twitter have expressed their outrage.

In one image, a woman is seen outside a store's smashed front window with a mannequin wearing a shirt. In another, a man is seen hugging a TV.

Pictures have also been posted of people supposedly protecting their property. One house boasts a sign "looters will be shot”; another has a boy standing out the front with a shotgun.

But all is not what it seems.


A Fairfax search of the images using Google's image search tool shows many were posted on the web long before Sandy hit the US - in some cases, years ago.

The pictures of the woman with the mannequin and the man hugging the TV were posted on forums in 2005.

The boy with the shotgun was posted on a blog about Hurricane Frances in 2008 and the picture of the sign outside a house was found on a 2005 AP story about Hurricane Katrina.

It's difficult to tell if some of the other pictures posted are fresh or old.

But some appear just silly, like one showing a picture of hardcover books, with the caption “GOTTA KEEP UP ON YOUR LITERATURE WITH SOME FINE-ASS STOLEN BOOKS”.

“The #SandyLootCrew stealing books,” wrote @ThinksAmoral. “What is this, 2005? There's e-readers now.”

Looting has occurred in some areas in the US in light of Sandy, but it is not as widespread as some on Twitter make out.

New York City Police told The Wall Street Journal it had arrested 13 people for crimes that included looting in Sandy's aftermath. The Newark mayor, Cory Booker, said on Twitter that his city had no looting problems – a message that was retweeted almost 8000 times.

“Police have reported ZERO looting or crimes of opportunity in Newark. And ceaseless reports of acts of kindness abound everywhere #Gratitude,” Booker said.