Fake images or photos often accompany fake news: here are the primary tools to recognize if the pictures are modified or not. Disinformation travels fast: Whether social networks, messaging apps, or blog posts with dubious reliability, false or retouched images are often published in support of fake news to support imaginative theses, of course, but above all, harmful to information or even more for health. The images and photos are artfully edited to keep the idea of the buffaloes’ authors.
The savviest can easily guess that it is not authentic material, but certain elements can escape to those less accustomed to technology. However, tools such as Google’s reverse search or similar free tools available on the Web come in handy. The operation of these tools is effortless and often familiar to everyone. Most of the time, it is necessary to save the “offending” image of dubious authenticity, upload it to the website or image search tool and discover its “secrets.”
The data that can be consulted are often exciting, such as whether it was retouched, how and even when it was taken, which sites or tests have used it previously, and if there are differences between the various images. Fact-checkers often use the method to deny fake news and counteract the disinformation surrounding the image accompanying misleading or false messages. Sometimes this procedure is also recommended to verify that the potential partner known on a dating app is not using a fake photo found on the Web. Often it is possible to use the tools together, as they are complementary.
One of the recommended tools is offered by Google, or what is called Google Images, and in particular, the reverse image search tool. Simple to use, search in the browser search string or the Mountain View search engine “Google Images”; this will open a tab with a new search bar that houses three icons, namely a camera, a microphone, and a magnifying glass. Pressing the camera icon will open a box with two options: “Paste Image URL” or “Upload Image.” In the first case, copy the URL of the image published on a specific site, forum, or similar. Otherwise, you can save an impression on your desk/desktop and load it in the second option.
Google will initially try to interpret the image according to “what it sees” in the first part of the page. Still, at the bottom, it will find “Visually similar images,” which have a certain coherence with the starting image. Finally, there will be a section called “Pages that contain matching images,” where all the URLs that use that particular photo, modified or not, will be listed in chronological order. The order by date can be helpful to understand if that photo was published before or after a particular event, which could be discussed in the potential fake news, or whether the person portrayed is natural or a model for a stock site for selling images. This case is handy, especially if we have doubts about someone we met on social networks or dating apps.
TinEye is an alternative to Google Images. Its job is to search all over the Web which sites are using a particular photo, the exact date it was uploaded to that URL, and even the image’s name, resolution, and weight. The tool is also helpful for photographers to verify that their photo has not been stolen or used without permission from the various platforms.
Still, it also applies to graphic designers and illustrators. The principle is the same, by clicking on Upload, you can upload an image or paste the URL in the space provided. In a few seconds, dozens if not hundreds of pages hosting this photo will be shown. By consulting the various links, it is possible to reach conclusions relevant to your research and evaluate what can be considered fake news or not.
Exif Data Viewer
Among the various tools that can be used to trace the reliability of an image, we find Exif Data Viewer. The device is named after the Exchangeable Image File ( EXIF ) data, a set of parameters stored when a photograph is captured using JPEG compression. Most digital cameras and smartphones use EXIF data, which records the shutter speed when shooting, and other technical data useful for photographers and photo editors. But some cameras can also record GPS information to find out where the images were taken, especially the date and time.
In this way, it will be possible to determine if the photo has been modified and how, and if chronologically, it was acquired before or after an event mentioned in the news of dubious authenticity. Once you have reached the URL of the tool, you can upload the image and consult the respective data. The list of data offered is very long, mainly if the image was acquired with a reflex camera and then edited with special software. By combining the information of this tool, which shows the shooting date, with one that performs the reverse search for images, it is possible to compare the material and establish which images are modified or authentic.