A side-by-side comparison showing the doctored version of this photo (left) next to the authentic photo (right).
NewsLit takeaway: Simple manipulations are often the most convincing. One reason that this photograph of a sideways campaign sign appears genuine is because it is so plausible. This photo appears to show a woman making a simple and reasonable mistake – holding a sign turned the wrong direction. Since the doctored image plays into political messaging disparaging Oz as a candidate, it is easy to see why so many people accepted this image as authentic.
This photograph, however, is doctored. Fact-checkers from The Associated Press spoke to the woman holding the sign during Oz’s campaign stop at the Capitol Diner in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and verified that she was holding the sign the correct way when the photo was snapped. Reporters with AFP Fact Check spoke to Oz’s senior communications advisor, who took the photograph, confirming the viral photo had been altered. Social media users, especially Pennsylvania voters, should also be aware that BBC News found one other instance of an “OZ” sign being altered so that it read “NO.”
Social media users could have also deduced this was a fake photo by verifying the authenticity with an official or standards-based source. The image of the altered sign was shared by numerous accounts that weren’t affiliated with Oz’s campaign, news organizations or firsthand witnesses. The original photo was posted on Oz’s social media feeds and shows the sign displayed with “OZ” in the correct position.
Doctored images are an efficient and powerful tool to convey political messages and manipulate emotions. Just because an image feels true to you doesn’t mean that it is.