Fact checking is not easy. Not at first, at least. Like all good things, it takes practice and patience. So, in this section, we are going to walk you through the basics of fact-checking for different media, most of them using Google tools, but also a few others that are of great help.
A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. It follows, then, that when a fake image is circulated, the impact it can create is far more insidious than a long-worded diatribe against someone or something. It is also a much faster way of spreading fake news since everyone may not have the time to watch a longish video. A fake image thus acquires a power of its own, since there is no way for an unsuspecting viewer to verify its authenticity. Combined with the force-multipliers of social media platforms and messaging services such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, the reach and influence of such fake images becomes manifold, and can reach millions of users within minutes or hours.
Therefore, fact-checking images that look or feel suspect acquires extraordinary importance in today’s world.
Fortunately, checking the veracity of images is fairly easy, thanks to simple tools like a Google Reverse Image Search, or even a simple Google Search. Additionally, there are different tools that allow a user to verify a image by selectively choosing a particular portion of the suspect image.
Reverse Image Search
This is the easiest way to search an image. Google allows two simple ways to run a check on an image.
- Open www.google.com
- In the search bar, enter the URL/web link where the image is displayed, and run a search. Google results will return all the sites that have carried the same or similar images. Some of these will be repeats of the fake image, but some will have the original image that has been doctored or altered to spread fake news.
- If you click on the camera icon, Google also allows you to search the specific image.
Most websites allow you to open the image in the new tab with a right-click on the picture.
The right click gives you an option to the image in a new tab OR to ‘Search Google for Image’.
- If you open the image in a new tab, copy the new URL and paste it into the Google Image Search and run it.
- Alternatively, you can simply use the ‘Search Google for Image’ option that saves you the trouble of copy-pasting the URL.
- You can also download the image onto your desktop or phone. Then in the Google Image Search bar, select the ‘Upload an Image’ option, and run a Google search. This will give you multiple iterations of the image, including the original that was altered. To be sure, some of the results will also show the altered image, since it is the nature of Google’s algorithm to show the most popular sites. So, if a particular fake image has gone viral across websites, don’t be surprised for these to also show up in your search. It just means that you will have to sift a bit more carefully.
This is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to run a reverse search for a particular image. This extension can be downloaded from tineye.com and gets automatically added to your Google Chrome, and serves a similar function to a Google Image Search.
- When you right-click on an image, the RevEye tool shows up in the pop-up. Click on the RevEye option and it gives you another list of which search platform you want to use for searching the image.
Crop Images for Search
The purveyors of fake news, unfortunately, also happen to be quite technologically savvy. It is not uncommon for pictures to be manipulated so expertly as to fool most ordinary users. It would take a certain amount of skill, even to the trained eye, to detect any discrepancies in such images. But again, following the common sense rule, if it looks too outrageous, it probably is.
In such cases, a smart way of checking is to search for the suspect part of the image. To do this, one needs to:
- Download the image onto your desktop or handset.
- Crop the part of the image you want to search (You can use any basic photo-editing software for this).
- Upload the cropped image back into Google’s Image Search to verify the authenticity of the image.
Time Filter Search
Google offers another handy tool to check if a viral image is what it claims to be. This is the Time Filter, which is available in the tools section once you have uploaded the image to be searched. What this filter does is allow you to set a time range for the image. Often, an old picture, sometimes years old, is repurposed to spread fake news. A time filter allows you to detect whether an image was published earlier, too, and in what context. This lets you know whether an old image is being retooled to propagate fake news-busting
Observe/Study the image carefully
Sometimes, a careful study of the image can throw up discrepancies or falsehoods. For this, of course, you need to study the image and look for gaps in what is being claimed and what the picture actually says.
Google Translate Extension
Language can be a great clue to fake news. Very often, images from other countries are used to push a certain false narrative here in India. Since access to a range of foreign images is now just a click away, it is extremely easy for mischief-makers to pick up any image from anywhere in the world and repurpose it for a malicious post or message to foment trouble or incite hatred locally.
One way of detecting such images is to run a language check using Google Translate. In such a case, a Google Image Search may throw up the same image but with a foreign language caption or story.
You can then run this through Google Translate to find out what the original image as actually all about and which you can use to debunk the fake news.