There are some useful online fact-checking tools out there that you can use for free. In this post, we will take you through the process step by step. It will be better if you check out those tools while reading the post simultaneously. This way you will learn much faster.
This is not exactly a tool, but, this is the first rule of fact-checking. Crosschecking means verifying information by using different methods or sources. Double check everything. You may even consider checking your information triple or quadruple times, because that’s pretty much a standard procedure for fact-checking nowadays.
How can we do that? Well, start by going to the original source. Say, a screenshot of a tweet you may find suspicious. To ease the situation, you can directly go to the Twitter handle to see if that tweet actually exists. There are options in Twitter search system, to look for older stuff. We will get to it in the later part of the article.
You can always crosscheck almost everything with the help of the search engines. We will focus on Google as a search engine in our article. Few days back, AFP Fact Check uploaded a series of tutorial videos on how to do individual fact-checking. We will cite those videos a lot, but, there will be more to that for you.
Speaking of Google, it can be a great fact-checking tool itself, if you know how to use it, utilize its features perfectly. Anyone with a good editing skill can alter a photo in such a manner that it can quite be impossible to realize that the photo is photoshopped. To verify the content of an image, you can take help from Google.
If it’s about a location, like if you want to find out the location associated with the image in question is true, you can search the location on google. This will give you an idea, although it can be obscure. For example, a photo claims to be taken in Kabul, Afghanistan; you can google for the place to see how Kabul looks like. To be more specific, if the photo is taken in a rural area, you can search for “rural kabul” and have an idea how the rural Kabul looks like.
Another excellent source for authenticating an image is flags. Photos with flags are easier to work with, you will have to write down the flag description and color in Google. The results will meet your satisfaction. Or, if not, you can directly search for the flags of all countries. It’s no big deal, because the number of countries around the world is quite countable, isn’t it?
Google Maps, Google Street View
Location in a photo can be examined with the help of Google Maps, if the image contains, say, a shop sign, street sign etc. Zoom in to read the signs, and then search the texts on Google. Google will bring results with the location of that shop or street. Then, search for the location on Google Map. Your next step is to use the Google Street View option. Google takes photos of cities, towns, places, streets for its Maps, and the photos are regularly updated. With the exact location, you will see photos of those signs, or shops.
A photo can have foreign languages in it. If the writings are written in English alphabets, Google Translator can easily translate them. This greatly works for street signs, placards, shop names.
If the writing on the photo is in foreign alphabets, Google Translator still can help. There is a camera function in Translator. If you focus the camera on the text, translators will translate it in English.
Google Reverse Image Search
Fake images can be debunked with the help of google reverse image searching. We discussed the process in one of our early posts, but will wrap it up here once again.
In your desktop browser, you will find an “image” icon on the upper right corner. Clicking on it will take you to a new search page that is dedicated to image-searching. Or you can directly go to https://images.google.com/ to access the page. There, in the search box, you can upload your image that you want to look for, and the results will show you the same images consisting of different pages.
Going through the results holding the similar image, you will see if the image is old, being misrepresented, fictitious, or edited etc. Note that you can use this feature in any of the other browsers. As search results may vary from one search engine to another, you can always go for several options if one does not provide results to your satisfaction,
You don’t really have to entirely rely on Google for reverse image searching. TinEye is another useful and easy-to-use reverse image search tool. This free tool also recognizes if a photo is altered and has expertise in computer vision, pattern recognition, neural networks, and machine learning.
Verifying videos may sound difficult first, but, with the right tool, you can do that too. InVid-WeVerify is a browser extension, with a low size of only 4 megabyte, which you need to plugin in your browser.
After installing as an extension in your browser, open it. The homepage will show multiple options including Keyframes. Click on Keyframes tool, the next page will have a box where you have to paste the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) of the video you are trying to verify. Press enter and it may take some time to process the video, depends on your internet speed, video quality, or length etc. When done, the page will show you all the important frames from the video and then you can do reverse search on Google with those still photos.
InVid-WeVerify offers some other tools like Magnifier, Twitter Search, Metadata extraction etc. Magnifier helps you to look closely on an image. Twitter advanced search will provide detailed results based on tweets. Metadata extraction is another interesting fact-checking tool.
Metadata Extraction Tools
Metadata provides information about other data. The metadata extraction we are going to discuss here is image metadata. If we take a photo with our phone, some other data will be encoded in that photo without our knowledge. These data include device model; camera features like aspect ratio, shutter speed etc; date and time of the photo taken; GPS coordinates etc.
Metadata extractor tools like InVid-WeVerify, Metapicz or Jeffrey’s Image Metadata Viewer will render you these data. And, how to use them? With the GPS coordinates, you can find the exact location of the photo taken. And, the date and time will make sure if the photo is old or not. Device models can also be useful, like if a photo of destroyed plane debris says it’s about Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 but, metadata extraction result lebels the device as iPhone 12 Pro, then you are pretty sure the photo caption is lying.
The drawbacks of metadata extraction is you need the original file. Photos from social-media won’t do any good because the metadata is manipulated then. And, if the device’s location system is turned off, the result won’t show GPS coordinates.
This tool is developed by Amnesty International. After posting the YouTube video link on the search box of Youtube DataViewer, the results will be containing the video id, upload date and time and thumbnails from the video. You can reverse search each of the thumbnails by clicking on them. This tool is easy to use with a simple user interface.
Advanced search on Facebook, Twitter
Searching things on social media has its own dilemma. Most of the time you will find out what you are looking for but you have to go through a gigantic amount of information. Facebook’s search system has been improved by time though. You can filter out your search results from different categories like posts, videos, photos, profiles time, posts you’ve seen or not etc.
Same goes for Twitter. But, Twitter has a better platform for this. TweetDeck is a search tool of Twitter which allows users to create various columns based on different criterias at a time. If you search for the Olympics, it will create a whole new column just to show the tweets talking about the Olympics. And, you can ask for more search query in different columns in a row.
Weather Underground website will provide the weather of any place in the past. There are two boxes to fill up; one for the desired location and the other will take the date entry. Now, if you have the rough idea of the location and date of an image, you can search for the weather at that time of the place. Then see if the search result makes sense with the weather condition shown in the photo.
If you are looking for an older version of a webpage, you can use Wayback Machine. This tool keeps all of the old versions of a website or a page. Pages that might have possibilities to be taken down later on for authenticity issues, can be archived on this site for later use. Another handy tool for this operation is http://archive.is/.
Specialized websites are the kind of websites that focus on only one specific item. It can be anything, from firearms to toys. For example, http://www.worldlicenseplates.com/ is a website that has photos of vehicle license-plates from every country of the world. Internet Movie Firearms Database is all about weapons and firearms used in films. There are similar specialized websites on military uniforms, road signs, even manhole covers!
Google Fact Check Tools
Google Fact Check Tools aim to facilitate the work of fact-checking. Consisting of two tools, Fact Check Explorer and Fact Check Markup Tool, the tools bring results of fake news and fact-checks on searched-topics.
Best fact-checking tools for journalists
Journalists are the frontline fighters against fake news. Their consistent hard work is bringing the truth to us. They have to do fact-checking for their own news story. There are several fact-checking organizations, fact-checking sites created by journalists and the media outlets. Here is a short description of these tools and sites. Anybody can use these resources for verifying information.
A nonprofit organization, FactCheck.org was created in 2004 with a team of professional journalists. It’s a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania. The mission of this organization is to monitor the factual accuracy of the comments by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.
The Washington Post has a remarkable history of investigative journalism. Those glorious days of Pentagon Papers, and Watergate investigation will always be remembered vividly in the arena of journalism. The Post’s got its own fact-checking site, Fact Checker. Award-winning journalist Glenn Kessler has been the editor and chief writer of The Fact Checker since 2011.
PolitiFact is a project by The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, created in 2007. It has a unique system to rate the accuracy of information. The Truth-O-Meter has six ratings. They are True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False, and Pants On Fire. While False means the statement is inaccurate, the Pants On Fire rating means the statement is not only inaccurate, but also makes a ridiculous claim. The Poynter Institute, a nonprofit school for journalists acquired PolitiFact in 2018.
Snopes is another popular fact-checking website. Relatively old, Snopes was launched in 18994. And it started with debunking urban legends, hoaxes, and folklore. Owned by Snopes Media Group, Snopes is not only the oldest but also the largest fact-checking site on the Internet.
Reuters Fact Check
Reuters is One of the prominent news agencies of our time. Reuters Fact Check unit is under the supervision of the agency’s editorial department.
Fact checking is vital, essential, and will make your product better, reliable and sourced by others.