Don’t Believe What You Read: Social Media Screenshots Are Easy to Fake

I want to show you a Tweet my coworker Justin Pot sent out.

Kind of weird, isn’t it? Except he didn’t actually send it. Scan his Twitter timeline and you’ll never find it. I made it in 30 seconds with Tweeterino.

You don’t even need to use a specific tool. With about a minute in Photoshop I can turn Justin into the President of the United States of America.

All this means that you have to be very careful about what you see in articles or on social media. If someone is sharing an image of a Tweet rather than Retweeting it, or sharing a screenshot of a Facebook post, there is a non-zero chance it’s fake. Obviously there’s also a chance it’s true, but you need to be careful before putting too much stock in it.

The simplest way to confirm whether someone actually said something is to check their social media accounts. Just scan it or use the site’s search functionality. Here’s how to do it with Facebook and Twitter.

If you find the Tweet or post there, great. You know they said it and you can deliver whatever hot take you want. If it’s not there, it’s no guarantee they haven’t deleted the Tweet or post, but it means you should do a little more digging before weighing in. There is a chance that someone has created a fake post just to make a point or get a rise. After all, the rest of the How-To Geek writers kicked up such a fuss Whitson had to remove this Tweet.

Harry Guinness writes occasionally when he’s not busy skiing, sailing, partying, lifting weights, or otherwise dodging responsibility. His main areas of interest are himself, gin, and crazy people with interesting stories to tell. When people won’t pay him to write ill-thought-out opinion pieces, he covers photography, technology, and culture. You can follow him on Twitter.