Six ways to identify ‘fake’ images on internet


Fake news peddlers often take photographs out of context.

They digitally alter the photographs to promote an agenda or push an interest, thus manipulating the readers, knowing fully well that people tend to accept photographs as evidence to validate a story.

These misrepresentations of images have helped drive the growth of fake news.  They have been one of the primary tools used by fake news purveyors to spread false narratives and mislead the public. 

Manipulated images could come as altered images. They could be old photographs shared as new to describe current events and pictures taken out of context.

READ: Instablog9ja circulates fake images of arrested Owo massacre suspects

With the help of digital tools, people combine two unrelated objects in one image and make it look like one. They could erase or add something to an image in ways that make readers find it hard to detect it as fictitious.

Even though there are tools to verify the authenticity of the photographs, or if manipulated or not, the combination of these following tips would help you discern their authenticities.

1. Zoom the image and examine it critically

When looked at critically, some doctored images may manifest some traces which can point to the fact that it was manipulated. Though there is no hard and fast rule as different manipulated images exhibit different characteristics, but the image can be zoomed and every part of it is examined to check for superimposition, colour incoherence and other forms of error.

You can also check for poorly worded text, rough edges within the image, or strange cropping or camera angles — all of these can indicate that the image has been tampered with.

Below is an image which shows a former chief of staff, Abba Kyari, seated and signing a document, while President Buhari was supposedly seen standing beside him.

The picture which trended in 2019 was used to spread narration that the former chief of staff was the one ruling the country and not the president. But looking around their necks critically, one could tell that the heads were swapped.


The manipulated image
The Original image

2. Use Google Reverse Image Search

The tool is one of the ways to trace the source of an image. Once you see a seemingly doctored image, you can perform a reverse image search on it.

Other tools such as TinEye or Yandex, have also proven useful. The reverse image search websites will find the original picture if it exists on the internet.

Google Reverse Image Search helps you quickly discover visually similar images from around the web. Once you upload a photograph from your desktop to Google Images, it will show you related images used on other websites and different sizes of the same photo.

See the manipulated photos of Ganduje and Peter Obi detected using a google reverse image search.

Manipulated image
Original image
Original image
Manipulated image

3. Check the Image Background

When a manipulator wishes to make the targeted objects appear bigger or smaller it can result in an alteration of the background.

A manipulated image at times tends to leave traces of bent or distorted surfaces in the background, which ought to be regular on the norm. This is also another red flag that such an image has been manipulated.

An instance of this was when some Nigerian women, including celebrities on social media, were using photoshop to edit their body shapes. The background however gave them away. It appeared bent and distorted, exposing the fact those images have been digitally manipulated.

A couple of those examples can be seen on this blog.

An instance of photoshopping exposed by the warped background

4. Cloning Error 

To clone is to create a copy. Cloning involves duplicating part of an image to create uniform patterns in a photo or remove blemishes in a photo. Cloning, at times, leaves traces in a manipulated photo, making it possible when examined.

This can also be better spotted using forensic clone detectors or other verification tools. Clone detectors highlight similar regions within an image. This can also be an indication that a picture has been manipulated.

5. Check the Image Metadata

Image metadata is text information about an image file that is embedded into the file or contained in a separate file associated with it.

Any digital photo file contains useful metadata. Some of this is collected as EXIF data, which you can quickly look at using a tool such as InVID.

The EXIF data allows you to get relevant information on a photograph. These include camera model, exposure, aperture, ISO, what camera mode was used and whether or not a flash occurred.

It may also reveal the type of camera that took the photo, and it can sometimes reveal the last piece of software used to save the image. It may also reveal if the image has been altered with a tool like photoshop.

ALSO READ: X lifts ban on Taylor Swift searches following viral fake explicit images

However, it is not 100 per cent reliable as it could be yanked off or modified.

You check basic image metadata information on PC, click on the “Details” tab and scroll down—you’ll see all kinds of information about the camera used and the settings the photo was taken with.

An instance of basic metadata information


6.InVID  Image Verification Assistant

InVID offers a wide range of tools to generate forensics and data on photos and videos, and it is one of the most powerful tools for spotting misinformation online.

These tools help to highlight distortions, forgery and other forms of manipulations.

This image shows a scene from the Catalan independence referendum protests in 2017. While the image actually depicts a scene from the incident, forensic analysis by InVID shows that the Catalan flag is a subsequent addition to the image.

Manipulated image with the addition of Catalan flag


Original image


Analysed image indicating the addition

Note that just one red flag may not suffice to establish that an image was digitally manipulated.

However, the combination of your human observations and the red flags mentioned above can make you reach a logical conclusion on whether the image under observation has been manipulated or not.

+ posts

Nurudeen Akewushola is a fact-checker with FactCheckHub. He has authored several fact checks which have contributed to the fight against information disorder. You can reach him via [email protected] and @NurudeenAkewus1 via Twitter.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Read

Recent Checks