In a world full of fabrications & misinterpretations, it takes sharp eyes to recognize subtle signs of fakery!
With significant advancements in image processing & machine learning algorithms, it has become much easier to create, edit & produce high-quality photos. However, often these techniques are misused to circulate false image or distorted content.
Remember the viral image of ‘giant shark casually swimming down a flooded highway in Houston, during ‘Hurricane Harvey’. Well, that was totally fake!
Unfortunately, not all the images that people share online or those, which go viral are ‘real’. The image was actually fabricated from an event in Puerto Rico in August 2011. The shark was added digitally through Photoshop. Notwithstanding, these fake shark images keep getting circulated, it got viral during flash floods in Texas in 2015 & even during Hurricane Matthew occurred in 2016. In fact, you can see the same image, floating on the Internet, after every large storm!
It’s remarkable to see that, even after years of being debunked, hoaxers still manage to make the image go viral.
To be honest, you are equally responsible for contributing to the spread of misrepresentation. Your single retweet or share with a particular hoax image makes it difficult for others to separate original things from fake.
PS. In such disaster events, you can do plenty of things, like donating food or assisting people with medical logistics or shelter. But for the love of God, just stop sharing the shark photo!
Google Takes A Step Forward To Fight Misinformation
Though it’s not at all easy to spot the differences between real & fake images. But the burden to detect it accurately & fast has never been so imperative as the amount of false political content continues to rise.
Lately, a technology incubator, Jigsaw, owned by Google parent Alphabet, released a free tool designed to identify doctored images, including the ones generated via Artificial Intelligence. The tool is known as ‘Assembler’!
How it works: It combines several existing techniques for detecting common image manipulations. It can identify the changes in brightness or if the pixels or copy, pasted to cover up something. It also includes a detector that spots Deepfakes (images that look real but have been altered using AI).
The tool is at its early stage, so it would not be available to everyone for now!
Meanwhile, users can try certain other methods to find the difference between real & fake photos.
Tips To Spot Fake or Morphed Photos Online
No doubt that the originality of a photo is difficult to spot, but certainly there are some ways to avoid using morphed or manipulated images.
#Tip 1 – Pay Attention To Reflections
Hoaxers with limited photo editing knowledge, often forget to manipulate the shadows properly. So, if you notice a shadow in the susceptible picture & still have doubts, draw a line from one point on an object to the corresponding point on its shadow for several objects on the image. Remember, all the lines should cover the light source!
#Tip 2 – Be Wary Of Poor Quality
Manipulated parts of an image appear to be a little blurred around the edges. To make these edited parts less noticeable, Photo Editors usually reduce the quality of an image. The quality is reduced in a non-uninformed way. The Photoshopped parts appear to be of a lower quality than the remaining parts of the photo.
#Tip 3 – Observe Identical Patterns
Objects rarely repeat identically. A beginner Photoshop user might leave similar patterns while trying to clone an element.
#Tip 4 – Start Evaluating The Tones & Colours
The integrity of a photo can also be doubted if certain unnatural colors are used. The world was fascinated by the viral picture of an American snake with tints of different colors all over the body. It was apparently a white color snake.
#Tip 5 – Don’t Miss Out On Odd Body Parts
It’s one of the most common errors a Photoshop novice can make. These flaws are easy to spot, just like in this poster, where the actress happens to have both the hands, while one if missing in this fake picture. A famous model/actress, Coco Rocha, took to Twitter to ask them to be sure of counting two arms & legs while editing.
#Tip 1 – Verify If The Fake Image Has Already be Debunked
Chances are the very fake picture you are trying to analyze that has been previously debunked. Using the Reverse Image Search technique by Google or TinEye, you can find the original source of the photo, or if it has been used or published anywhere else.
If the search engine doesn’t yield any results, this means the image is new or not popular.
Finding unique & weird species is something everybody thrives for, but there’s certainly no need to create one with Photoshop!
#Tip 2 – Verify The Photo Metadata Or EXIF Data
The complementary approach to check an image’s authenticity is through ‘technical analysis’. In concrete terms, by extracting the data stored in photos, you can know a whole array of information about the image file. And, honestly, there are no shortcuts, you have to rely on dedicated software to analyze the originality of a picture.
Photos Exif Editor helps, view the metadata or EXIF information of an image file. You can know details like the date, time, geolocation, camera model, size and much more.
Fake images usually store stripped EXIF data. So, for example: If you check the metadata of a fake picture, settings like Camera Type, Exposure Settings would simply show results – “camera info not found” or “EXIF data not found”. Whereas, the original photos, would say the image was taken with “Canon 90D by __ (the person or device name).”
#Tip 3 – Analyze Fake Images For Doctoring With Advanced Tools
Several tools in the market help users to digitally investigate the photos & examine if they have been manipulated ever. You just need to copy & paste the fake photo’s URL in FotoForensics, it’s the website best-known for identifying hidden pixels, color adjustments, last-save quality, parasite detection & perform other error level analysis. It would help you see the image in a completely new way so that you can easily spot common mistakes.
Browser plugin like InVID Verification also works quite well to help you to verify fake photos & videos & know about debunked hoax news as well.
Certain Fact Checker Websites like Snopes can also be a great resource in verifying fake images or videos. When misinformation obscures the truth & readers find themselves confused about what to trust, Snopes comes as a rescue. Their investigative reporting sheds light on pieces of evidence & is mostly based on contextual analysis!
Help Fight Misinformation!
Think twice before overreacting about the picture you saw floating online. One of the easiest ways to spot fake images is by using your own common sense. If you are or you know someone who’s good at Photoshopping or spotting doctored images. Do not forget to share this article with them!