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Photos, Photos Everywhere

One of the consequences of the social media revolution has been an skyrocket in the number of photos that are available. Most times when there is a newsworthy or at least SORT OF newsworthy event you can trust on an army worth of people to take and post photos across social media platforms whether through general formats like Facebook and Twitter or photo specific platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Posted photos are often passed on without a thought. If it’s on the Internet it has to be true right? WRONG! While many of these photos are exactly what they claim, others are nowhere near what they say they are.

Sometimes like a quote magnet (a famous person who a quote is attributed to making the quote sound smarter) photos just pick up a false attribution to make the quote better. A photo of an alligator in a Miami yard may not be that big of a deal, but if you claim it’s from Chicago then THAT’s worth sharing.

Sometimes people may find a photo that illustrates a story better than what you can find with real photos. No one wants to tell a story about a riot and only have pictures of peaceful protesters and respectful cops – even if those are all the photos that were actually taken at that time or in that place (exciting photos are often used over and over again with the reason for the event and what groups were involved changed in the accompanying text). Sometimes there aren’t provable, clear enough to publish photos of something that really DID happen. But people always want a photo with a story.

Sometimes photos are deliberately altered. Photos can be combined, people or objects can be added or altered. Alternately sometimes photos that are genuine are thought false. (And NO sadly Teddy Roosevelt never rode a moose.)

Reverse the Search!

If you’re wondering about an image a way to check it out before you share is to use a reverse image search like Google Images or TinEye, copy the image in and search. It will give you results about where the photo has been used before and if anyone has flagged it. If it’s big enough to be a news story you call also check sites like Snopes to see if there is more to the story. Sometimes the story really isn’t what you see.

Sarah Uthoff is a reference library at Kirkwood Community College. LIKE the Kirkwood Community College Library on Facebook and find links to Sarah all over the web at her About Me Profile.