How do you know if what you’re seeing online is true?

Between news, blogs and social media sites, almost anything can be published online with the click of a button. But is what you’re reading, seeing or hearing real? These free websites and add-ons help clear up the confusion.

To learn more about websites:

Whois: Find out who registered a Web address and the physical address for the person or company.

To verify photos:

FotoForensics: Upload an image to see if it has been altered by examining its compression levels. With error level analysis, the edited parts of the picture will stand out.

Left: Alligator grabbing piece of meat on stick, lily pad behind it. Right: Darker version of this image, with only lily pad outlined in purple. (State Dept.)
A side-by-side comparison of a photo using compression-detecting software. (State Dept.)
What’s fake in this picture? Only the lily pad. The compression levels are different, as the colors and textures show.

JPEGsnoop: See the time of day a photo was taken, what kind of camera was used and other details. Like FotoForensics, you can also see if the image has been edited by comparing its compression levels.

Who Stole My Pictures: Find copies of an image on the Internet with an add-on that searches Google, Yandex, Bing and TinEye. It lets you trace the image’s use over time, since photos can be improperly sourced.

To confirm video footage:

YouTube DataViewer: Paste in a YouTube URL and discover the video’s upload date and time (which can be different from its public timestamp). You’ll also receive thumbnails of the images to track how they’ve been used online.

Wolfram Alpha: Check the authenticity of a video or photo. For one, compare the weather in the footage to historical weather records. Type in “weather,” the location and the date to search this engine’s data sets. (You can also use it to search for historical currency conversions.)

Smartphone screen showing social media icons (© AP Images)
(© AP Images)
To check assertions:

Wikipedia: Get started on a new subject with this free encyclopedia, available in multiple languages. Make sure to verify the sources listed.

Investigative Dashboard: Search these databases for companies, people and the relationships between them, or ask an expert for help.

Storyful: This company creates a “heat map” of social media traffic, discovering and verifying video, audio, text and photos. Its clients include major news outlets — but this service must be paid for.

Want more fact-finding tools?

Written by some of the world’s leading journalists, the Verification Handbook offers tools and techniques to use in emergencies, especially when verifying information, photos and videos generated by crowds. The Verification Handbook for Investigative Reporting, a companion piece, offers more techniques for researching online.

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