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Tips for fact-checking images

Photo Credit: bankinfosecurity 3 mins read

One of the most common forms misinformation or disinformation come is in images. 

Over the years, fact-checkers have observed how misinformation and disinformation in this form can get complex but thanks to digital tools, most of these are easily unmasked. 

In this guide, I share, based on my experiences, some of the tips and tools that can help to fact-check claims that are premised on images. 

Note, the nature of the claim determines the approach used in the fact-checking process. 

Is the claim suggesting a phone was taken somewhere other than where you suspect it to be? Is the claim suggesting that a photo was taken at a time of the day you find questionable? Do you suspect a photo being used to make the claim is from an unrelated event? or do you think the photo has been doctored to create a false impression?

You can arrive at a strong conclusion by making use of some digital tools relevant for fact-checking images. 

Images from unrelated events

Reverse image search is a common fact-checking activity that is mostly used to ascertain whether an image has ever been shared elsewhere online and what it was earlier used to depict. 

Google, Yandex, TinEye all offer reverse image search services. When you upload the image in contention on any of these platforms, they scan the internet and pull out the same or very similar versions on the internet to enable you to conduct further analysis, whether the image was uploaded a year or two earlier, or the week earlier in relation to a different event.  

C:\Users\Jonas\Desktop\AliExpress\Google Images.JPG
Snapshot of Google Images

In some instances, the results of a reverse image search cannot form the basis for a conclusive fact-checking, but it provides relevant information for further analysis. 

The platforms mentioned above offer a wide range of settings that allows you to tailor your search or carryout more advanced search online. 

Doctored images

Dealing with doctored images in fact-checking can be very simple yet complex especially without the right digital tools. 

Although conducting reverse image search can also help bust doctored images, there are instances that require advanced use of available digital tools such as Forensically and Invid Image Verification

C:\Users\Jonas\Desktop\AliExpress\Forensically.JPG
Snapshot of Forensically

These tools have many features to help to analyse images and photos to ascertain their authenticity.   

These tools, when applied correctly, can easily resolve some very complex claims hinged on doctored images. 

Disputed time 

You can know the time of the day an image was taken if you have access to the image’s metadata or EXIF data. An image’s metadata has almost every detail you need to know about a photo; date, time, the camera used, image dimension, location and so on. 

You can retrieve this information using any of the many metadata extraction tools available online including MetaPicz and Exifinfo.

Once you upload the image, the tool will present the image metadata in less than a minute.

C:\Users\Jonas\Desktop\AliExpress\Exif Info.JPG
Snapshot of Exif Info

Unfortunately, most images uploaded to social media have their metadata stripped off, hence complicating extracting their metadata. 

There are alternative ways of ascertaining the time a photo was taken and this includes studying the position of the shadow of the subject in the image if available. In some cases, juxtaposing the weather in the photo with available local weather data can give relevant clues.

With new technologies coming up often, there surely will be more resources to be added to this article that can help to clarify fact-check’s contentious images. 

You can learn about some tips for fact-checking videos from our previous article.

The reporter, Jonas Nyabor, produced this report under the auspices of the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship in partnership with Citinewsroom to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and to enhance media literacy in the country. 

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