Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fake Photos and the Folks Who Share Them

This is not the U.S. Army football team
kneeling during the National Anthem.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and a picture that gets shared can get exposure at exponential levels. Unfortunately, pictures can be altered in ways that do not depict reality. Sometimes a picture doesn’t even need any alteration. Sometimes, all a skilled photo distributor needs to do is to attach a provocative story related to trending news.
For example, one very hot topic has been protests by NFL players who take a knee during the National Anthem. The photo at the top of this post shows the U.S. Navy football team kneeling in unison for prayer before a game against the University of Tulsa. However, those players certainly didn’t take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem.

Nevertheless, some enterprising “creator” made up a story about the U.S. Army football team taking to their knees in solidarity with the NFL’s kneelers. Then he or she put the story and the photo into distribution.
The photo was real, but the story was a complete lie. When I stumbled across the picture, it seemed preposterous. I did a Google search for “U.S. Army football team kneeling.” The top organic search result was from Snopes.
That post debunked the story, as did a post from That’s Nonsense.
Still, lots of people have shared the story and the picture, probably because they think it shows something very ironic related to the kneel for the Anthem protests.
Another picture that has been circulating recently was of several of the Republican candidates reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before one of the debates in 2016. Donald Trump has his hands at his side while the other Republican candidates have their right hands over their hearts. It was a great picture to confirm the bias among many that President Trump is a hypocrite. That photoshopped picture has been debunked.
This technique of photoshopping pictures to score political points works in the other direction as well. Around 2010, President Barack Obama’s face was photoshopped into a picture of members of the Black Panthers. Just one more fake photo debunked by Snopes. The picture didn’t even make sense, but people who believed the worst about Obama shared it.
Some photoshopped pictures are gross. One recent photo showed President Trump from behind while walking on a golf course. It appeared that there was a stain on his white pants indicative of - to put it delicately - a fecal episode. The stain was added to the pic. It confirmed the bias among some that President Trump is an oblivious buffoon. Similarly, someone photoshopped a picture of Hillary Clinton with a stain on her pants.
When people see pictures that make them chuckle or pictures that confirm their political and cultural biases, many don’t question the veracity of the pictures. That would take longer than the one second it takes to click on the share button.
When it comes to pictures on the internet, seeing should not be equated with believing. Photos can be manipulated, and there’s no shortage of people who are sufficiently skilled to make a photoshopped image look authentic. Sharing is easy. Scratching beneath the surface is work.

5 reasons why people share fake photos during disasters. This article from CNN breaks down some of the biggest reasons people believe what they see on the internet.

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