Fact-Checking Images and Memes

Find Trusted Coverage

Often, claims or stories will come to you in the form of images and memes. How do you know if images have been digitally altered (Photoshopped) or if they are being shared out of context (misrepresented)?

If you want to find trusted coverage of the issue, claim, or photo, you have two options:

  1. You can search the relevant text from the image
  2. You can use “reverse image search”

Reverse Image Search Using Google

On your Computer

Using Chrome as your browser, right-click the image and select “Search Google for image.” Note: On a Mac, use Control-click. On a Chromebook, use Alt-click.

In the example below, we can do a reverse image search on this meme that suggests space lasers were responsible for the California wildfires.

When you right-click an image in Chrome, it will give you menu that includes "Search Google for image"
This is a screenshot of a meme claiming that the California wildfires were caused by “powerful lasers.” We can try to check this claim with a reverse image search.

On your Phone

Using Chrome (app), touch and hold the image, then select “Search Google for This Image” Note: You may first have to click a menu option to “Open in Chrome”

Touching and holding on an image in Chrome on a smartphone gives a menu option to "Search Google for This Image"
Although it is a bit more difficult, you can also conduct a reverse image search on your phone.

The Results

You will get a list of any other websites where the image has been used, including previous fact-checks of the image, and perhaps even a link to the real version of the photo.

In our example, we see that this meme has appeared in many other places, and that it has already been shown to be false by a reputable fact-checking organization.

Google reverse image search results show visually similar images and a fact-check of the meme from factcheck.org
Our reverse image search results show that factcheck.org has already found this conspiracy theory meme to be false.

The results of this fact-checking led to some of the actual images, in context. In the screenshot below from the Twitter account for SpaceX, we see that the first image from the meme was actually an image of a SpaceX rocket launch, not a laser beam hitting California.

Tweet from SpaceX shows one of the supposed laser images is actually a rocket launch
A Tweet from the official Twitter account for SpaceX shows the origin of one of the supposed “laser” images.

Sources

Find Trusted Coverage section adapted from “Check, Please! Starter Course,” licensed under CC BY 4.0

Reverse Image Search section adapted from “Library 10” by Cabrillo College Library, licensed under CC BY 4.0

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Introduction to College Research by Walter D. Butler; Aloha Sargent; and Kelsey Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.