5.2 How to verify and debunk online misinformation

5.2 How to verify and debunk online misinformation

If a post incites extreme emotions in you – anger, surprise, excitement, hate, disproportionate sense of patriotism or extreme passion – you should stop, and verify. Never go by the accompanying text of a post – that is the creator’s opinion. Investigate the image or the video with the post. Only that will help you verify the post.

Use Reverse Image Search liberally – Google, Yandex, TinEye, Baidu are a few reverse image search engines that help you verify images online. You must have used text to search online before. You can do the same search with the help of images as well. When you use these image search engines, you will get a sense of whether these images have been used in any other context online, before. It will be possible to check if the image has been digitally altered. Use the “Date Filter” liberally. Set the date to a period before the date that the post claims, and if you can still find a pre-dated image, you are probably looking at misinformation.

For a start, try the YouTube DataViewer – This is a web-based video parsing tool that works with YouTube videos only. The tool breaks down the video into four thumbnails, which can be used to reverse image search with.

Install a Chrome Extension called InVID – This very versatile extension helps you break down images of a video that you are verifying. Once you get the keyframes of a video, you can do a Reverse Image Search- all the engines in one right click using this extension. You will get a context of where the video belongs – in terms of country and time. Do remember to listen to the audio carefully to see if it has been force-fitted on the video to spin a new story.

You don’t have to be a tools and techniques person to fight online misinformation – Doing simple text searches on what a post conveys can also get you the verified results. Just make sure you observe, and listen carefully. If you find it outlandish, inciteful, unbelievable, exciting and invoking an extreme emotion in you, you have a job at hand – to investigate it further.

If you are someone who does not have the time to reach your laptop to verify a post, use Google Lens. Simply put, Google Lens is your answer to Reverse Image Search on your smartphone. When you click an image – and this image could be anywhere – on a newspaper, on your laptop screen, or on another phone, Google Lens gives you the other instances of the same image online. This makes your job easier in understanding the context of the image that you are verifying – in its previous avatars on the net. One of the significant benefits of using Google Lens is the Translate option. Of course we know that Google Translate has been around for long to help you with the translation. But that would be useful when the text you are searching for is editable and copyable and pasteable. What if the text you are verifying is on a billboard in an image you are looking at? Or a piece of packaging, or a label? Google Lens makes it simple. Just point your camera to the text on any surface. Highlight the text and choose the language you want to translate into. Language translation can be very critical when you are trying to decipher and verify a language alien to you. With Google Lens, verification has become language-agnostic.

As journalists we all like to be first off the blocks but being first off the blocks should not jeopardize the truth. Make sure that you do not share wrong information in that process, make sure you pause, verify and only then share. As journalists we need to be sure that the information we share is legitimate, authentic and verifiable.