Often images get reused on the web, and it's hard to know where they originated and if they have been manipulated or used to mislead. The SIFT strategies outlined on the home page of this guide can help you investigate the origin of an image and if it is trustworthy.
The last part of SIFT may be especially helpful: TRACE claims, quotes, and media back to the original context. Start by asking from where the image originates. You may also need to INVESTIGATE the source(s) where you find the image. Consider questions like:
Combining strategies: Keep in mind that sometimes you need to combine multiple strategies to evaluate the image's credibility (for example, examining who posted the image and assessing their credibility). The tools on this page can help in this process.
It is also important to remember pictures and videos do not tell the whole story. They are a limited view of a scene in a static moment of time. You do not know the surrounding or what happened before or after the image. Be sure to check for bias when evaluating images.
Google's or Tineye's Reverse Image Search can help you determine an image's origins, which may or may not be the page where you found it. Reverse Image Searches looks for webpages that contain a specific image or similar images. If you find a related image, compare it and its origins with the image you're checking.
To see how you might combine multiple strategies see this example of using Google Reverse Image Search from Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers.
Video: Search the History of an Image (Cntl-F, with Mike Caulfield)
When an image appears in multiple places online, it's helpful to sort by date in order to find the original source of the image. After running a Google Reverse Image Search, you can sort images by date: click the "Tools" option (top of page, next to the Settings), select the "Time" dropdown menu, then select "Custom range," and finally choose a range of dates or years. (If you have no idea around what year the image is from, Mike Caulfield recommends starting with 2009.)
Learn more about from Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers.
How do you know if the person behind a Twitter or other social media account is trustworthy? In the video below fact checkers from Buzz Feed offer some tips on invesigating who is behind the account..
Video: "Evaluating Social Media Accounts" (Ctrl+F)
Key video points:
Check when the account was created.
Do a Reverse Image search on the profile image (right-click on the image). Do related images appear to use the same name?
If the account appears to be a famous person, look for a blue verification checkmark next to the username. You can also check things like spelling.
Deepfakes are fake media like images and videos in which an image of one person is replaced by another. Deepfakes can be surprisingly deceptive, even at this early stage in their development. The video below discusses the history of deepfakes and ways to detect them.
Video - Deepfakes: Can You Spot a Phony Video (Above the Noise, KQED)
It can be hard to spot deepfakes. Perhaps the most important thing is to be aware that they exist, so you can think critically about visual and media content that you encounter, as you consider their origins.
Here are some practical tips from the "Above the Noise" video above. To detect deepfakesl look for:
You can also:
Sometimes images are posted to social media sites like Twitter with no indication of their origins. Google Image Search (described above) can often help in identifying the image source, but you may also need other strategies.
Learn more about tracking viral photos from Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers.