Ease of access to information is one of the core values of the Internet, but that has also rendered the process of submitting information quite effortless. Today you can get your voice heard with a few keystrokes and a fairly popular social media account. While ideally the system is beneficial, it can also easily be abused.
Of course, trolling, the new favorite pastime, did not help at all with the unfortunate disposition of the Internet. People want to see "a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." One can conjure up a myriad of fake fact, news, photos, quotes and so on. While some of them take root, there are a couple of ways to spot a fake from the real deal.
Today we will focus on fake photos and their news value. Although fake quotes are quite common, they are relatively harmless as the former categories can be used as a form of perception management.
Let us start with dismantling how a fake photo can gain traction in a short amount of time. If the fake photo is used to deliberately sow a certain perception, there is often a person or a core group trying to render it relevant by either sending it to more influential people or spamming accounts. The second factor is a bit more problematic because this is the step where the masses start to believe the fake photo to be real thing. When the photo reaches news rooms, popular Twitter accounts and famous people, a single mention, retweet, or a news article featuring the photo will make it credible in the eyes of the public. As a newspaper, everything we publish takes its strength from our credibility to make itself relevant. The same goes for the personal accounts of journalists. Since society is also able to voice their opinions via social media, what I am about to write concerns them, too.
Spotting a fake photo is not that hard. The Ukrainian organization "StopFake" published an article titled "How to Identify a Fake" in order to combat the surge of fake news. In the article, author Oleg Shankovskiy said the easiest way to spot a fake photo is to conduct a reverse image search. This can be done either by the native capabilities of various browsers or specialized applications, both of which are freely available. By conducting a reverse image search, you can find whether or not the same photo was used in a different context before. If that is the case, then congratulations, you spotted a fake. Of course, this is the easiest fake to spot. A more sophisticated one would be photoshopped images. Yet the reverse image search also helps us there as well. Since the pixels of the fake will largely differ from the original, there is a good chance that you will find the original image and therefore expose the fake.
This short and easily accessible method can easily cut down the number of fake photos that causes outrage every day on Twitter and other social media platforms to a more manageable size. Journalists, influential people and the society should stop adding fuel to the fire and let the fakes die instead of "feeding the trolls," especially when the alternative is so easy.
As for newsrooms, I certainly hope they are going above and beyond this method and properly vetting their sources because otherwise they are simply becoming a cog in the propaganda machine.
The second prominent type is the fake videos. These are more sophisticated to produce, thus uncovering them takes a bit more effort. Shankovskiy suggested a concerned viewer should go to the source of the video and study the comments, and I agree with that statement. Nothing stays hidden on the Internet, and there is a chance that somebody else already tagged the video as a fake. But if that is not the case, Shankovskiy mentioned other methods including determining if the video is either newly uploaded to multiple sources or paying attention to street signs or license plates of the cars. Lastly, searching for keywords or taking a screenshot of a prominent moment in the video and conducting an image search can also help.
Considering yesterday was election day, I believe these methods can prove useful since we see a spike in fake images with the purpose of perception management every time a political transition or related event takes place.