Would you believe that Mount Rushmore, in landlocked South Dakota, is underwater? You shouldn’t. The image above is a fake.
Fake images often appear on social media. In August 2017, Texas was rocked by Hurricane Harvey. An image posted to Twitter looked like it was taken from inside a car. Outside, the road was flooded. There was a shark in the water. The post read: “Believe it or not, this is a shark on the freeway in Houston, Texas.” It was “liked” 142,000 times. But the photo wasn’t real. It was made with editing software, and had first appeared online in 2011.
Fake photos are more common than ever, Toby Bochan says. She works for Storyful, a company that verifies videos and images on social media. Here, Bochan shares tips for telling real from fake.
“Where is this coming from?” That’s the first question Bochan asks herself when investigating a photo. She looks at a profile of the person who posted it. The shark photo was posted by a blogger in Ireland. Would he be in Texas during a hurricane?
Here’s another trick: On a computer, right-click on a photo, then select “search Google for image.” Doing so turns up photos that look the same or similar. This can provide clues to a photo’s origin. When applied to the shark photo, the trick turns up posts claiming it was taken in Puerto Rico, New Jersey, and Florida.
Experts also look at metadata. Metadata is information embedded in a file. It tells when the image was created, its size, and other details.
“One of the reasons misinformation spreads faster than truth is that it tends to be very simple,” Bochan adds. “Unlike life, which is complicated.” And fake photos? They’re designed to make people feel angry, sad, happy, or scared.
If you have a strong reaction when looking at a photo, stop and consider what you see, Bochan says. You too can be a digital detective. Remember: source, date, location.
Here is one of the photos used to create the fake Mount Rushmore image. Use online tools and techniques to see if you can find it on the Web. How else can you determine if a photo is real? Toby Bochan of Storyful recommends using Google Earth to view locations where an image appears to originate.
STOCKTREK IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES
Stop & Think! How do you think the Mount Rushmore photo, above, is meant to make people feel? What clues in the image tell you that it is fake? How do you think it was made?