5 software to check if an online photo has been manipulated

5 software to check if an online photo has been manipulated

These free systems allow you to go back to the original image, understand where it was shared and if it was retouched. Here's how

A comparison of an original and deepfake video of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Elyse Samuels / The Washington Post via Getty Images) Disinformation is like a virus that can spread rapidly by exploiting the multiple sharing of unverified news, videos, or images. In the case of images, deep fakes and state-of-the-art photo retouching are able to deceive even the most attentive eye and, through viral sharing, can significantly mislead opinion. Checking an image online is easier than you might think. Here are 5 software you can use directly on your smartphone to verify a photo.


TinEye home page TinEye is a reverse image search tool. It is free and is able to quickly identify all the pages where an image or a very similar one has been published. Unlike the other reverse search tools, TinEye offers the ability to set filters for searches thus showing Digitally Manipulated Most, Oldest and Most Recent results.

Using the first search filter the software shows all possible versions of the photo found online. In this way the user can realize how many times and in how many ways the image has been manipulated. Using the Older filter, the software sorts the results in chronological order and you can quickly find the original image.

TinEye can be used through Chrome and Firefox browsers (also for mobile devices) and fishes among all the images uploaded publicly online. After downloading the image to be verified, just open the TinEye page and select the Upload image item and then select the desired photograph from your gallery. The software also allows the search via url but the user must make sure to copy the actual url of the image and not that of the page that hosts it.

Google Images

Also Google Images a user can directly upload the actual image or url of the photo you want to check. Google Images works best when viewed in desktop mode since the mobile version does not offer the user the ability to upload an image to the search bar. Switching to desktop mode, which also works on mobile browsers, simply click on the camera-shaped icon to open the file selection menu.

By clicking on Search, the tool will search among all public images online a match with the uploaded one. It will then be up to the user to browse the results. This system also allows you to find out, in some cases, who is the copyright owner of the image.

This system has recently been improved by introducing search through Google Lens. If browsing on Google Chrome you come across a dubious image, just hold down on the photo for a long time to display a pop-up menu. By selecting Search with Google Lens, you can perform a reverse image search. Some previous versions of the browser in the pop-up menu may show the item Search on Google for this image but the result is the same.

Fake Image Detector

Fake Image Detector (image: Play Store) Unlike the two systems mentioned above, Fake Image Detector is an app for mobile devices. Available only for Android devices, the software allows the user to check if an image in the gallery of their device has been digitally manipulated.

Once the image has been loaded, the application will provide the user with a indication of the possible authenticity, thanks to the two methods of analysis: the analysis of the error level (Ela) and the analysis of the metadata.

The Ela is based on the fact that a compromised or altered image has more digital compression in the modified part than in the rest of the image. By analyzing the composition and compression of the photo, the application can provide the user with an idea of ​​whether this has been more or less manipulated. Unfortunately, this system is nullified if the image comes from Telegram, WhatsApp or any messaging app that digitally compresses the file. In this case, the application will still judge the images, even verified, received via message "digitally manipulated".

The second method of analysis focuses on metadata. All photos taken with a digital camera have embedded information such as the camera name, date taken or location. This information is called metadata and is altered if the image has been retouched.

Photo Sherlock

Photo Sherlock (image: Play Store) This application, available for Android devices, iOS can also be used via desktop browser, as well as being free, it allows the user to perform a reverse image search on multiple search engines at the same time. The app will show the user the results of Google, Bing and Yandex, the main engine in Russia. It also allows you to check if the image comes from a magazine or newspaper. Photo Sherlock can check the images saved in the gallery of the device or, using the "capture" tool, those taken at the moment.

Veracity - Reverse Image Search

Veracity (image: App store) Veracity is an application available only for iOS devices and allows the user to perform a quick reverse lookup of an image, discovering which other websites it has been used on. In addition, the app has a function that allows you to verify the authenticity of the profile photos used on social networks. This last feature is very useful for identifying fake profiles but it only works on photos publicly uploaded to social networks.

Other tools

There are other ways to verify a photo. One of these is the FirstDraftNews verification toolbox which allows, via browser, to easily verify the origin of images and videos by analyzing their url. FirstDraftNews also offers a free guide to fact-checking photos. Although this guide is primarily intended for journalists, it contains a lot of practical advice that anyone can apply.

Going back to Google there is another verification tool called Fact Check Explorer. This tool, however, does not allow direct search of images but is based on the keywords related to a person or a topic.

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