Reuter’s Fact Check Blog is a valuable resource when it comes to verification of news items you come across on the internet, social media sites or in emails that you want to vet and verify as authentic.
A recent post I came across on their blog was one having to do with disinformation regarding the LGBT community in the form of an altered photograph composed of two men marching in a gay pride event carrying a rainbow flag. The original photo can be seen here thanks to the archival “Wayback Machine” website. It shows the actual photo as described above, published on a French website.
In Reuter’s Fact Check post, they are checking the “Tweet” of a known conspiracy peddler on Twitter. She posted the altered version of the photograph, seen here, which has been heavily photoshopped with the pride flag removed. Reuters describes the image as “(it) shows two men wearing harnesses with one child between them holding a small pride flag and another sitting on the shoulders of the man on the left (Reuters).”
The anti-LGBT Twitter account user posted the caption: “This is NOT about human rights! At this point, it’s about saying NO to freaks, perverts, narcissists and pedophiles!” Reuters noted that the post has now been archived, but it had obtained more than 293,000 views on Twitter alone.
The main issue here is the insertion of the minor children in the photo to make the image appear deviant and distasteful. It also seems to insinuate a trope and stereotype that the right-wing like to call “grooming,” which you hear about all over the news and social media these days.
Reuters states on its website the process they use to fact check, “Reuters News has a fact-checking unit within its editorial department. The principal aim of this unit is to fact-check visual material and claims posted on social media. The fact-checking producers in this unit report their findings on a section of the Reuters.com website.”
The Reuter’s conclusion regarding this post is: “Altered. The image has been altered to include two children.”
In addition to Reuter’s own fact-checkers, France 24’s “The Observers” also posted a piece on this photo and others entitled: Social media full of ‘bogus’ images of Paris Pride March (france24.com). They state in their piece, “Several far-right organisations and their supporters have shared misappropriated photos on social media to denounce the Paris Pride March. In reality, these photos are old and some of them weren’t even taken in Paris (The Observers).”
This is an additional credible news source stating factually that the images in the piece, including the photo on Reuter’s, were altered and backing them up with evidence.
Opinion and news analysis website, The Huffington Post did a piece that included the original image of the men in the photo. Turns out the photo was also being used to promote homophobic coverage in France in 2012 during the vote on Marriage Equality there. The far-right weekly paper “Minute” printed the photo on its cover and said “”Soon, they will be able to put on… the ring on the finger.”
The association “SOS homophobia” consequently sued Minute for the homophobic coverage.
The Wayback Machine, online archives, and internet sleuthing can all aid fact-checkers in their quest to get to the bottom of the vetting process and ensure verification happens as timely as possible. Reuter’s Fact Check Blog, France 24/The Observers, and The Huffington Post all used techniques to detect and flesh out the truth in their reporting. Hence, misinformation spreads less viciously and virally than it could otherwise.