Visual Mis/disinformation in Journalism and Public Communications: Current Verification Practices, Challenges, and Future Opportunities

T. Thomson, Daniel Angus, Paula Dootson, Edward Hurcombe, Adam Smith
Social media platforms and news organisations alike are struggling with identifying and combating visual mis/disinformation presented to their audiences. Such processes are complicated due to the enormous number of media items being produced, how quickly media items spread, and the often-subtle or sometimes invisible-to-the-naked-eye nature of deceptive edits. Despite knowing little about the provenance and veracity of the visual content they encounter, journalists have to quickly determine whether to re-publish or amplify this content, with few tools and little time available to assist them in such an evaluation. With the goal of equipping journalists with the mechanisms, skills, and knowledge to be effective gatekeepers and stewards of the public trust, this study reviews current journalistic image verification practices, examines a number of existing and emerging image verification technologies that could be deployed or adapted to aid in this endeavour, and identifies the strengths and limitations of the most promising extant technical approaches. While oriented towards practical and achievable steps in combating visual mis/disinformation, the study also contributes to discussions on fact-checking, source-checking, verification, debunking and journalism training and education.