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Fake News & Media Bias: How to Evaluate Images and Videos

Evaluating Images and Video

So much of what you come across online is visual, thus it is important to understand how to evaluate images and videos since they can easily be manipulated and taken out of context. 

General Evaluation Techniques

Some of the tricks you use to evaluate an article's claims can also be used to evaluate an image.

  • Is there an author  or group associated with this image? If there is, research the author or group. 
  • Is there a link accompanying the image? Check the link to see if the image is from a trusted source and to see if any claims accompanying the image are accurate.
  • Have you seen this photo elsewhere? Or have you seen photos circulating with similar claims elsewhere? You can use the reverse image search techniques to determine if this image has appeared elsewhere. 
  • If there is a date associated with the photo, does the date coincide with any claims made in the images? Was the photo taken before or after an event it is supposed to represent occurred?

Critical Observation

When you critically observe an image, you are looking at the image closely and taking in the details to verify the images credibility. It is important to look at the whole photo for clues, not just the focal point. Only looking at the focal point can cause you to miss many clues.

  • Does the claim made by any accompanying text seem to fit the context of the image? Does it make sense?
  • If this is a photo claiming to be of an event, search for photos of the event. Does this image appear to match those photos? Or are there differences? 
  • Look at clues like seasons, architecture, climate, the clothing and actions of the people in the photo, etc. to see if these things match any claims associated with the photo.
  • Look for clues the photo may be photoshopped or cropped or manipulated in other ways. These clues include halos around images, pixilated images, odd angles or items not quite lining up.

These tips were provided by the News Literacy Project.

Reverse Image Search

Most search engines have a reverse image search feature. That means you can right click on the image and either select to search for the image or copy the images URL and then paste it into a browser to search for the image. You may come across fact checking websites where others have asked about the image or other places where the image has been used. 

What is a deepfake?

Deepfake technology allows you to swap faces and voices to alter videos. They first appeared in 2018, and while some are easy to spot because images and sound may not quite match up, they are quickly becoming sophisticated without the need for special tools. This means it is even more essential to trace an image back to its actual source to determine credibility. 

Evaluating Photos and Videos