How to find out if an image is valid

If there is any place where deceptions run rampant, it is the amazing and enigmatic world called the Internet. Never in the history of mankind has it been so easy to mislead each other by creating false identities or by starting hoaxes on personal situations or world events. A clear example of this form of internet deception are the Qatari Hollywood scenes during the fall of Tripoli in August 2011, as well as Syria’s “photoshopped revolution“.

But it are not only the evil forces that use such tactics. We might unintentionally contribute to the spreading of untruths, e.g. through social media, if we do not know how identify them.

This morning I happened to stumble upon the below image:

Gaza and not Tripoli

The image was posted on Twitter by a user named @Morning_LY and the caption read: “#Tripoli this morning”. Because the magnitude of the smoke plumes stroke me as a bit bizarre, I decided to ran the image. It turned out to be a photo of the Gaza strip, which is used by many who oppose the Israeli bombings as a header at their blogs.

Twitter user @Morning_LY subsequently removed the image. However, another deceptive one, also posted today, is still available on their account:


After a quick search it became clear that this is not an image of “Tripoli’s airport road earlier today” [July 6, 2014], but that it came from an article of May 18 this year.

Unfortunately untruths tend to spread even faster when they come from what we consider to be reliable sources. The Facebook page “We are Al Gaddafi’s lovers”, a community site for Jamahiriya supporters, obviously blindly copied @Morning_LY’s now removed image:

We are Al Gaddafi's lovers

In the age of information, ignorance is a choice. With the ongoing and increasing information war, we seriously cannot afford ourselves anymore to thoughtlessly copy what others claim to be true, regardless how much we like or trust them. It is our duty towards ourselves and towards the world to become as streetwise as possible, especially when it comes to the internet which is full of perceptions and deceptions.

Therefore here is a small and easy guide on how to decide whether an image is valid or deceptive.

1. Go to Google

2. Click the word “Images” on the top right:


3. Click the camera icon on the right in the field under the Google logo:


4. Either paste the image link or upload a saved image from your computer, then click Search by image:


Now the results are showing the pages that include matching images (pages that have the same image as the one you are searching for), as well as visually similar images.

I am aware that a no-hit does not at all provide conclusive evidence that the image is valid. But the above is a great way to find out in a few simple steps if the image you are searching for already does exist somewhere else, and thus to find out if someone might deceive you or in another way provides misleading or untrue information. More than ever telling the truth is a revolutionary act – however in order to do so, we need some skills to separate the wheat from the chaff, and some of those skills are simple technical ones.

Categories: Media

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