Avoiding misinformation

Amid the alarming images of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over the past few days, millions of people have also seen misleading, manipulated or false information about the conflict on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Telegram.

One example is this video of military jets posted to TikTok, which is historical footage but captioned as live video of the situation in Ukraine.

Visuals, because of their persuasive potential and attention-grabbing nature, are an especially potent choice for those seeking to mislead. Where creating, editing or sharing inauthentic visual content isn’t satire or art, it is usually politically or economically motivated

Disinformation campaigns aim to distract, confuse, manipulate and sow division, discord, and uncertainty in the community. This is a common strategy for highly polarised nations where socioeconomic inequalities, disenfranchisement and propaganda are prevalent.

How is this fake content created and spread, what’s being done to debunk it, and how can you ensure you don’t fall for it yourself?

What are the most common fakery techniques?

What’s being done about it?

What can I do about it?

You can attempt to fact-check images for yourself rather than taking them at face value. An article we wrote late last year for the Australian Associated Press explains the fact-checking process at each stage: image creation, editing and distribution.

Here are five simple steps you can take:

1. Examine the metadata

This Telegram post claims Polish-speaking saboteurs attacked a sewage facility in an attempt to place a tank of chlorine for a “false flag” attack.

But the video’s metadata – the details about how and when the video was created – show it was filmed days before the alleged date of the incident.

To check metadata for yourself, you can download the file and use software such as Adobe Photoshop or Bridge to examine it. Online metadata viewers also exist that allow you to check by using the image’s web link.

One hurdle to this approach is that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter often strip the metadata from photos and videos when they are uploaded to their sites. In these cases, you can try requesting the original file or consulting fact-checking websites to see whether they have already verified or debunked the footage in question.

2. Consult a fact-checking resource

Organisations such as the Australian Associated PressRMIT/ABCAgence France-Presse (AFP) and Bellingcat maintain lists of fact-checks their teams have performed.

The AFP has already debunked a video claiming to show an explosion from the current conflict in Ukraine as being from the 2020 port disaster in Beirut.

3. Search more broadly

If old content has been recycled and repurposed, you may be able to find the same footage used elsewhere. You can use Google Images or TinEye to “reverse image search” a picture and see where else it appears online.

But be aware that simple edits such as reversing the left-right orientation of an image can fool search engines and make them think the flipped image is new.

4. Look for inconsistencies

Does the purported time of day match the direction of light you would expect at that time, for example? Do watches or clocks visible in the image correspond to the alleged timeline claimed?

You can also compare other data points, such as politicians’ schedules or verified sightings, Google Earth vision or Google Maps imagery, to try and triangulate claims and see whether the details are consistent.

5. Ask yourself some simple questions


Do you know wherewhen and why the photo or video was made? Do you know who made it, and whether what you’re looking at is the original version?

Using online tools such as InVID or Forensically can potentially help answer some of these questions. Or you might like to refer to this list of 20 questions you can use to “interrogate” social media footage with the right level of healthy scepticism.

Ultimately, if you’re in doubt, don’t share or repeat claims that haven’t been published by a reputable source such as an international news organisation. And consider using some of these principles when deciding which sources to trust.

By doing this, you can help limit the influence of misinformation, and help clarify the true situation in Ukraine.

Article by T.J. Thomson, Senior Lecturer in Visual Communication & Media, Queensland University of TechnologyDaniel Angus, Professor of Digital Communication, Queensland University of Technology, and Paula Dootson, Senior Lecturer, Queensland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.