The Hidden Signs That Can Reveal a Fake Photo

Farid emphasises that forensic techniques do not guarantee fake photos can be spotted. They are, however, creating an arms race between hoaxers and those working in the forensic community.

“They raise the bar for the level of difficulty and skill required to create a compelling fake,” says Farid. “My hope is that when you run a photo through 20 or so different forensic techniques, and every single one, from the packaging to the shadows to the colour to the noise is completely consistent, it is more likely that the photo is real.”

So what can the rest of us do to spot those pesky fake images circulating on the internet? While we might not be able to use the full range of forensic techniques at Farid’s disposal to spot inconsistencies in images, there are other ways we can examine photos more critically. Reverse image searches (which can be done at sites like tineye.com or Google Images) are a good way to find out if a specific image has already been revealed as a fake. Reputable sites like snopes.com also vet viral images.

“More often than not, people think that the real images are fake and that things that are fake are real,” says Farid. “And their confidence is very high. So people are both ignorant and confident, which is the worst combination.”

The solution is to turn to computers to spot the inconsistencies that humans can miss. Photographic forensics uses a battery of techniques and algorithms to identify fake photos, many of which examine whether images fit with the laws of physics. While it may never be possible to authenticate a photograph to 100 percent confidence, forensics specialists can test photos using a number of techniques. — The Hidden Signs That Can Reveal a Fake Photo (BBC)