By Elias Kamau A tree house in Stone Town? Too good to be true! When we received this photo at THE FUMBA TIMES, we became highly sceptical. Here’s a guide to help you recognise fake shots – especially in your social media.
The commonsense warning is clear: don’t believe everything your Facebook and Instagram friends throw at you. In a world where visual misinformation is becoming more prevalent, developing a critical eye for photos is crucial.
Why do people fake photos? Some like pranks, jokes and scams. Others want to promote a certain agenda and manipulate readers to accept photos as evidence. You might have seen examples of photos intended to mislead. A fake Aleppo skyline circulated on social media during the conflict in Syria in 2014, showing a vibrant city skyline and a devastated landscape afterwards. However, it was later revealed that the “after” image was heavily manipulated. Another case was the US capitol riot. After the 6 January 2021 attack, conspiracy theorists attempted to spread a narrative that the rioters were not actually supporters of then-President Trump, but Antifa activists. The claims were debunked by fact-checkers who confirmed the identities of the individuals in the photos and their connections to farright ideologies. So, how to distinguish authenticity from fake – without being a tech expert?
Use common sense.
Check if the photo violates any physics laws or known facts, become an eye-witness! Alleys in Stone Town are narrow and have no room for such a tree house. Look at company signs and writings on the wall to identify where you are.
Blurred is bad.
Pay attention to details such as unusual shadows and reflections. Many fake pictures end up with distorted surfaces, blurred faces (like the boy in the Stone Town picture) and wrong body parts such as a short or twisted arm. If something seems oddly out of place or proportion, or details seem fuzzy, it gives away a fake photo.
Act like a media professional.
Editors rigorously verify the source of a photo. They ensure that the image comes from a reputable and reliable source, sometimes cross-referencing the image with news agencies, official websites, and – very importantly – their own reporters’ or credible eyewitness accounts. If the photo appears on multiple reliable sources, it adds to its credibility.
Check the metadata.
Photos often contain embedded metadata, information about the camera used, date and time of capture. Discrepancies should raise red flags!
Use tech tools.
If you’re uncertain about the authenticity of an image, consider performing a reverse image search using online tools or search engines.
How real are AI photos?
Photos generated by artificial intelligence (AI) are not inherently fake photos in the traditional sense. They are not photoshop versions of real images but entirely new creations. The authenticity of an AI-generated photo depends on how it’s presented and used. If the intention is to depict a fictional scenario or artwork, it’s not necessarily “fake” in the sense of misrepresentation. But if an AIgenerated image is presented as evidence of a real event or as a factual representation, then its authenticity comes into question. It therefore becomes increasingly important to disclose when an image is computer generated, media experts advise.