Digital Forensics: Tools Newsrooms Can Use To Avoid Photo Manipulation
By Tracie Powell
It may sound like an episode of CSI (take your pick from the franchise), but journalists are using high-tech tools to combat photo manipulations, an increasingly needed skill in an era where news organizations are relying more and more on user-generated content.
The rise of digital cameras and the move to digital photo formats makes image manipulations a lot easier. Now everyone can fire up Photoshop or a comparable tool to make modifications to photos that are not detectable to the human eye. These images, unfortunately, go viral on social media platforms, catching unsuspecting journalists, bloggers and other innocents in the cross-heirs.
Fotoforensics is a free photo analysis tool, which enables users to detect discolorations and other tell-tell signs of photo manipulation, while TinEye and Google offer free reverse image search that allow users to track down where an image originated. These are free tools journalists (well anybody) can use to detect altered images, while FourMatch authenticates images for a little less than $1,000, said Jelena Woehr, a social media and community manager with Yahoo but also a digital native, activist and blogger who uses these tools to combat malicious practices online.
Kenny Irby, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, said these tools are not used in newsrooms every day, but as publishing user-generated content has become more prevalent, so has the need for verifying content. This task has been made even more difficult as copy and photo editors — news organizations’ first line of defense against publishing altered images — are the folks hit hardest by newsroom layoffs, Irby said.
Irby and Woehr spoke in-depth about image verification tools, trends, ethics and the need for more advanced technology to combat photo manipulation with the National Association of Black Journalists this week via Google Hangout. A video of the conversation is below, and a list of resources for journalists is posted underneath the video. Tracie Powell, founder of allDigitocracy and co-chair of the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force, moderated the discussion.
The HuffPo piece Kenny mentioned:
TinEye reverse image search:
Hany Farid’s research:
Jelena Woehr’s Blog:
Hany Farid’s still in development advanced photo analysis tool shown in a news story: