13 Online Content Verification Tools
Services that will help to “extract” as much data as possible from a photo, detect fakes and find more information about a person
“Verification book” is the name of the book presented by the European Journalism Center last week. It collects advice from the editors of the world’s leading mass media on how to verify content from users. First of all, we are talking about news, photos and videos published in social networks.
Today, journalists have to deal with a lot of rumours, fake news and fake photos – professional media often participate in spreading them themselves, unintentionally misleading readers. After that, trust in the media may fall, and it is especially dangerous to spread false material during acute situations in the country or natural disasters. “The main question of verification is: “how do you know this?”. Reporters should ask this question to their sources, editors should ask it to reporters,” the authors of the manual write. The Internet, on the one hand, increases the amount of false information, and on the other hand, it provides many digital tools to verify it. The guide contains a list of online tools for checking different types of content, with a strong focus on working with images. Here are some of those tools.
Findexif.com is a free service to which you can upload a photo or give a link to it – it will determine the EXIF data (information about when the photo was taken, which device, image parameters, and for some photos, the location of the shooting can be determined).
Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer, an online tool with the same function, exposes image metadata.
Foto Forensics is a website that can detect error level analysis (ELA), i.e. “underdrawn” areas in an image or inserted into it during editing. After processing, the program produces a photo where the edited fragments will stand out against the background of others. In addition, the program will also provide the EXIF data of the photos.
Google Search by Image – reverse image search: here you can upload a photo to find its original source and see where else it was published.
TinEye is another reverse lookup tool.
JPEGSnoop is a program that is installed on a computer (only works for Windows), and also allows you to view metadata not only of images, but also of AVI, DNG, PDF, THM formats. The program can be used for many purposes, allows you to see if an image has been edited, detect errors in a corrupted file, and more.
The editor of social media and user content at BBC News Trushar Barot writes in the book about the image verification algorithm: “First of all, you need to establish the author/original source of the photo.” The most obvious and usually most effective way to do this is to contact whoever uploaded or submitted the photo and ask if that person took the photo themselves. Also be sure to search for a photo via reverse image search. Google also shows similar images, which sometimes helps to see if a photo has been edited. The link to the photo in the largest expansion, as a rule, is the original source.
It is necessary to check the person who spreads the information. In order to gather more information about her, the editors recommend a number of different resources, but they are of little use to Ukrainian journalists, since the sites are designed for US residents. However, there are some that will be useful for different countries. For example, Pipl.com is designed to find the “Internet footprint” of a user, helps to identify him, find photos. The program searches all American social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace) – for this you need to enter the first and last name in Latin. The peculiarity of the program is that it searches the “deep web” (deepWeb), which is ignored by conventional search engines and is inaccessible to users.
An additional useful resource of WebMii – looks for links with a person’s name, gives a “web visibility” rating, which can be used to establish fake accounts. Thanks to the tool, everyone can find mentions of their own name on foreign resources.
The next step in photo verification should be to confirm the location, date, and approximate time the photo was taken. It is easiest to ask the author himself or ask him to do it
It shows three soldiers standing near the memorial to the unknown soldier, as if during a storm. But in fact, the photo was taken a month earlier – a reverse image search helped establish this.
Google Maps or Wikimapia (a crowdsourced version of GoogleMaps) will help you figure out the locations. Useful site Panoramio – here you can place photos by marking their geographical coordinates (the site is integrated with Google maps).
Geofeedia is a “social media curator” tool that aggregates results not by keywords or hashtags, but by the location you specify. The service processes messages from Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, Instagram and Picasa sent using GPS and then presents them as a collage. And although it does not cover a significant number of messages, it provides a general picture. The service is paid, only the demo version is free.
Another way to check the authenticity of the photo is to see what the weather conditions were like in the declared place on a specific day. The Wolfram Alpha search engine will be useful here. It is worth saying more about this tool – it is not even a search engine, but a knowledge base with a scientific bias. An intelligent robot that can answer very different questions. But it focuses only on topics that relate to accurate, more encyclopedic information, not current events. It does not provide links to other sites, but gives a ready-made version of the answer. You need to work with Wolfram Alpha in English. If you ask him what the weather was like in Kyiv on January 28, he will provide the following information:
In the book, foreign authors advise using “Tungsten Alpha” specifically for the weather. But in fact, this tool can be useful both in the daily work of a journalist and for fun. The system can compare well-known global companies by many indicators, as well as cities, countries, famous people, buildings.
The program contains a lot of economic information, including calculating forecasts – for example, the price of gas and oil in the long term; can solve complex mathematical problems, give detailed information about the nutritional value of various foods, show a map of the starry sky for different points on the globe. In addition, it calculates body mass index (you need to enter your data) and disease risks; determines the time required to read or write a certain number of words and much more.