In response to the spread of fake news on the internet, several tools have emerged that aim to help us understand the real context of an image: if it has been edited, where it has already been published and with what information.
Applications are tools that answer some important questions when we come across an image that raises suspicion, such as: when was it first used? What is actually happening in this scene?
We can, at first, take a good look at the image and look for watermarks or signs that it has been edited (such as distorted objects in the background or elements with very different lighting and tones). We can also pay attention to the context of what is being portrayed: people’s clothes, landscapes, or whether the surrounding objects match the place and date this photo is supposed to portray.
If there are still doubts about the authenticity of the photo, there are other resources, available on the cell phone itself, that can help. The tips are from the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN). See below.
Reverse Google Image Search
Searching for an image on Google is a good way to check the context behind it, including checking if it has been published by reliable sources of information. To do this, you need to go to Google Images and paste the photo URL. It is necessary to pay attention to copy the URL of the image only, and not of the entire site where it was published.
If you are using your cell phone and prefer to search for an image saved on your device, you must select the “Computer version” option. To find it in Google Chrome, you need to select the three dots in the upper right corner of the screen; in iOS Safari, it’s at the bottom center of the screen. Then just click on the camera icon in the search bar to upload.
That way, you’ll be able to see pages with matching images, read news related to it, and even look up where it first appeared.
Image search apps and websites
TinEye is an example of a tool that does online image research, finding other places where the same photo or similar versions of it have been published. In it, it is possible to see the “most modified”, “older” and “newer” versions of the same image, in addition to comparing the versions, identifying possible assemblies or edits.
TinEye is not available as a mobile app, but the website is freely accessible on the web — including through mobile browsers.
You can also use other apps to search for identical or similar images, such as Veracity – Reverse Image Search (only available for iOS), Google Lens or even Pinterest.
In Lens, click on “Search using the camera”, click on the photo to be checked and review the results. On Pinterest, save the image to your phone first. Then, with the app open, press the magnifying glass button at the top of the screen, then the camera icon, select the supposed fake image and see similar results in the “Explore” tab to draw your conclusions.
Check image metadata
In addition to reverse search and searching for similar images, another option is to check the photo’s metadata (or EXIF data—interchangeable image file format). They consist of technical information about an image, such as the date and time the photo was taken, the camera model used, applications that processed the image, and in some cases, even the author.
If, for example, the file creation date is very old, it should not refer to recent events, so it may have been manipulated or taken out of context.
There are some apps, paid or free, that can be used to check this data, such as EXIF Metadata (iOS), Photo EXIF Editor (Android) and Fake Image Detector (Android).