Amended or misleading photos are some of the most common kinds of misrepresentations found online, but they can often be hard to spot.
There are some examples of photo-based misinterpretation encountered in our research, and some advice on how to verify things you may encounter in daily life.
Out of context photos
You have probably encountered an image taken out of context on social media, whether you know it or not. Images of crowds, clutter, and misbehaving adults have all been a part of out of context misinformation.
An image claiming to show a rally in support of activist Tommy Robinson and president Donald Trump in London was shared thousands of times. But it was an image of people praying in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. And it was taken in November 2011.
If you are uncertain of an image online, but still not confident if that image is misleading. One of the best options is to do a reverse photo search. The most common method to do this is via image search engines. You can just right-click on the image and click “search website for image”, the photo search tool will tell you where it is certain the image is from.
You can also find similar images using the image URL. Just copy the photo’s address. Then go to a trusted photo search engine like https://www.reverseimagesearch.org and click the search by URL option. Paste the image URL and then click the “Search by image” button.
Images and videos that have been edited are the earning products of the web. However, this also means that when they are used for notorious or misrepresenting purposes, they are more likely to be missed.
An example of an edited photo is one that claimed to show former labor party representative Jeremy Corbyn wearing a bobby pin that stated “let’s forget.” But in reality, that bobby pin was digitally added to Corbyn’s suit.
Sometimes finding the context of these images can be as simple as searching for a description of the picture. If you can find the right description that brings up the true story behind the image.
Sometimes forgotten misinformation trends online is misidentification of people. This mostly happens to public figures, but can happen to the general public too. One claim is that Nigel Farage was captured with former National Front member Martin Webster.
On the other hand, reverse image search can help to understand this situation, verifying this photo contains speaking with the people involved at the time when the image was taken. Similarly, a young man was misidentified during the Black Lives Matter protest, his friends then verified that he had been wrongly accused. So, in such times, photo search and verification play the part of the people involved in the incident by finding similar images and advanced search tools.
Use Common Sense
If you come through an image online, especially when it’s going viral, ask yourself if it makes sense. Firstly, does the context used to make sense, and does it fit with what you know to be correct?
If you are suspicious of the photo, some simple questions can help dig further. Do the details given in the image fit with the description? For example, are there any landmarks that you recognize? Many cities have iconic skyscrapers or buildings.
You could also check if the weather in the image matches with other pictures of that day’s forecast. You can also lookup what is going on in the picture.
Or you can find similar images about the photo to know the true story of the image and the date, time, and location it was taken. Tools like Reverse Image Search can play a key role in this heist as it searches from all the big databases Google, Bing, and Yandex to provide the reality behind an image and more related results.
If the image has been shared on the internet, it is also worth looking at the comments. lots of other people may have also expressed some doubts or even proved that the image is fake and forged outright.
Familiarize yourself with the internet memes/jokes
Knowing what communicating online is like, including knowledge of commonly used memes can help you avoid falling into some common misinterpretation traps. Using a reverse photo search shows links to several pages reporting that if the image was created using online generators.
To be certain it’s not what it appears to be, you can try finding the real image source by yourself. If it’s an important document or image it is more likely that major news outlets can be reporting on it, if neither the keyword nor the image’s layout matches up with the true version it confirms that the photo is not genuine.
Fake and forged images are a real problem and, in some cases, it is considered a crime. They might show a one-sided story, or can be taken out of the real context. This is where tools like reverse image search come in handy for finding the difference between real and forged images.