Several online tools can help you find the source of an image posted on social media and detect whether it has been misrepresented or edited.
The violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng saw a flood of such photos and videos surface on Twitter, invoking the anger of many misinformed users who would not first verify the legitimacy of the images.
A prominent figure of the now-disbanded Umkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA), Carl Niehaus, was one of the spreaders of misrepresented images.
Niehaus shared several images of looting in the US and Mexico and wrongly claimed these were from scenes at stores in South Africa.
He also posted a photo of a group of residents who had recovered stolen loot but claimed they were looters.
He has since deleted the post from his Twitter feed, but it is still being shared on the platform.
— Nina Pretty (@NinaPre256) July 14, 2021
The Internet is rife with photoshopped imagery, much of which is harmless.
However, some Internet users have more malicious goals than making the next viral meme.
While there could be clear signs of editing or touch-ups that the average user might easily spot, photo and video editing software has improved immensely in recent years.
New machine-learning powered tools such as “deepfake” videos are also becoming harder to identify as doctored.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a forensics expert or photographer to spot a typical fake.
Image recognition technologies powered by machine learning have spawned several free tools which can show you where an image comes from and if it has been modified.
Typically, these platforms let you upload an image or provide a link to it, then analyse it to detect where you can find other copies or similar photos posted online.
Below are two of the best options you can access from your smartphone.
One of the most popular reverse image tools is TinEye, which also has an extension for the Chrome browser.
TinEye’s MatchEngine software includes features such as fraud detection, image review and moderation, visual inspections, and image verification for dating and social media sites.
TinEye will show you the most changed, oldest, and newest versions of a photo, allowing you to identify when and where an image originated, and if it has been misrepresented or altered.
In addition to TinEye, you can also use Google’s reverse image search engine built into Google Images.
To initiate a reverse image search on the platform, click on the camera icon towards the right of the search box.
Be warned, however, you may have to delve deeper into the results when using Google Images.
In our testing, Google itself showed us some of the posts from Twitter punting the fake images without context.