Why you should never trust pictures


If you search the Internet for misinformation and conspiracy myths, one thing immediately catches your eye: most of those who spread such disinformation and myths work with pictures or videos.

Birds that fell victim to a storm

Haven’t you already received a YouTube video with the promise of an aha effect? To be able to classify this correctly, one must know that such aha-effects release the happiness hormone dopamine. Who experiences this once, wants usually more, and already one is with the next conspiracy video (more about this here – be careful, there could be an aha-effect…)

It must remain a speculation, because we know nothing about the strategies of the disinformation strategists, who constantly provide conspiracy believers with new aha-experiences, but probably the reason for this is the power of images.

“In an American study, two target groups were shown a content-wise balanced article about the economic situation of six different American farmers, three of them prosperous and three suffering. Afterwards they were interviewed to find out what they remembered. Both articles were exactly identical in content and differed only in the visual material. In one article there was a photo of a prosperous farmer next to his airplane, in the other a photo of a poor farmer bringing in hay with a horse-drawn cart. In the first interview, the students uniformly considered 37 percent of the farmers to be poor. Only 10 days later, the interview was repeated, and there was a clear difference between the two groups, depending on the picture they had seen. Those whose articles contained the image of a prosperous farmer now had a much more positive picture of the farmers’ economic situation. They now considered only 29 percent of farmers to be poor. The opposite was true for the students who saw the poor farmer. They now even considered 44 percent of the farmers to be poor. This is called the “sleeper effect”. … This shows what far-reaching consequences visualizing messages can have. Manipulators are at large here. They can make a thing look worse or better in the long term even if they work with the correct numbers. (Source: Business Campaigning, Peter Metzinger, Springer 2003)

No wonder that the vernacular says “a picture works more than 1000 words”.

An example for manipulation with pictures are the pictures of dead birds, which allegedly fell victim to 5G, that appear again and again in new variations. Sometimes there are dead birds in Italy, sometimes in Croatia. Interesting: the pictures are the same. A little research leads one then to the realization that it concerns birds, which fell a storm to the victim.

How can one protect oneself against such, deeply in the subconsciousness working manipulations

Very simple: with Google’s reverse image search you can search for similar images. This way you can find out whether a picture is authentic or comes from a completely different context. In the example of the pictures with the dead birds, the reverse image search leads to the realization that this picture was used earlier, in an article about a storm that claimed many birds as victims. This oldest of the found photos is then probably the true source, the manipulation is thus unmasked (and the proof that 5G is supposed to kill birds is disproved).

We recommend the reverse image search whenever an article is accompanied by particularly spectacular images. It does not have to be about 5G. There are also reports of allegedly burning electric vehicles, showing a tanker truck in flames, and many other examples. (“No, this photo does not prove that a mouthguard endangers health”)

And this is how it works:

- Save the spectacular image
- Go to images.google.com
- Click on the camera icon
- Upload the image
- Google then starts a search and shows you all pages that show the same or a very similar image

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