Category: fact-checking

Be skeptical about photos

When doing research off the Internet

So much of what passes as original documents or copies of originals are fake. That includes photos. You probably know how easy it is to Photoshop images to make them look real. To show how easy it is to fool people, BuzzFeed Video Producer Amanda Holland took a photo of Donald Trump surrounded by Republican congressional leaders and Photoshopped replicated the same face onto each representative.

Here’s the Photoshopped photo.

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And here is the photo before she changed it.

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So before you republish content, you might want to check to see if you can trace the photo’s origination point. One way of doing that is by using Google’s reverse image search. Plug in reverse image into Google and you get a search box with a little camera icon. That lets you plug in a url of a photo or even upload a photo from your own files. If you do that for that first photo above, you find that the only news site that used it was one talking about it being fake.

If someone gives  you a photo, interview that person before you publish it. Did that person take the photo? Who did? Where was it taken? When was it taken? On what camera or phone?

See if you can get the meta data stored on the image. Digital devices store information about the photo on the image itself. An EXIF viewer can tap that information if the image hasn’t been scrubbed clean of the data. Chrome, for instance has a free EXIF Viewer extension you can add to the browser. I used it on a photo I found on the Orange County Register of an immigrant woman facing jail and deportation for drug crimes. You can see in the upper left corner, the data the EXIF reader gave me about the photo.

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In a closer look you can see that the photo was taken on a NIKON D5 camera on May 1, 2017 just before 10 a.m.

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