Rumor Review

Images of protest signs often doctored

Protestors recently staged demonstrations in states that issued stay-at-home orders and business closures in efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Since then, images of protest signs with doctored messages have been circulating on social media.

doctored protest sign

NO: The protest sign in this tweet is not authentic. YES: The sign actually said  “Give me liberty or give me death” (h/t @jjmacnab). YES: The photo — taken on April 17 in Huntington Beach, California — shows people protesting statewide stay-at-home orders.

Note: The photo, by Jeff Gritchen of The Orange County Register, is included in the gallery at the top of this report on the protest (possible paywall).

doctored flag protest

NO: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did not digitally add a Confederate flag to a photo of a protest against a recent extension of the stay-at-home order in Wisconsin. YES: The man holding a pole flying a Gadsden flag (“Don’t tread on me”) above a Confederate flag can be seen (at around the 0:20 mark) in a video of the protest posted to Facebook. YES: Another man wearing a nearly identical plaid shirt was holding another pole with a Gadsden flag.


Discuss: What standards and ethics policies relating to photos do quality news organizations strive to abide by? What kinds of alterations to photos are ethical and allowed at standards-based news organizations? What kinds are not? What kinds of consequences might photojournalists face if they are caught breaching those standards?

Idea: Invite a photojournalist from a local news outlet to discuss photojournalism ethics and standards with your students.