October 30, 2019
Jade Marks | MediaWise Teen Fact-Checker

MediaWise Rating: Doctored

After a disturbing image surfaced from the depths of the Internet, we set out to find how many licks it takes to get to the center of a viral meme.

An Imgur post made in April by the account apeckofpickledpeppers12 shows an image of Pope Francis licking a baby’s face. However, this doesn’t seem like pope-like behavior, so we decided to figure out if it was legit.

Do a keyword search

Looking for more information about this licking incident doesn’t give us a lot of results. Using a keyword search on Google doesn’t yield any news sources. We saw a few memes using the photo as a reaction image or a template, but that’s about it. Reading upstream — trying to find the original source — doesn’t seem to be working.

It also seems suspicious that news sites aren’t covering the fact that the pope might have licked a child with all the attention that’s been on the Catholic church in regards to abuse .

Who’s behind the info?

We didn’t feel comfortable trusting someone named “apeckofpickledpeppers12” with our news. And because anyone can post an image on the website Imgur, which can then be upvoted into virality, we can’t trust how visible something might be on the website as proof that it’s legit.

What does Wikipedia say?

While Wikipedia is not really the best place to get all of your information from, it can be a starting point to get your search going. We did a keyword search on the site and Wikipedia doesn’t have anything about Pope Francis and his alleged baby licking. The closest that you’re going to find is a page for an urban legend called the “Pope Lick Monster,” which doesn’t seem any more real than our photo. So how can we be sure this is a fake photo?

Do a reverse image search

Finally, we’ll do a Google reverse image search to see if this image has appeared before — and if it’s been altered. After saving the photo and plugging it into Google images, however, every result is for the same image of the pope licking a baby. It’s time to dig deeper and do another reverse image search with TinEye, which searches a wider range of pictures on the web.

Using TinEye, we can find the original photo appeared across several religious blogs, as well as in a Jezebel article. Pope Francis is kissing the baby’s face in these images.

Our rating

This photo happens to be doctored. You won’t find anything about this on the news or in any other credible place. Despite the title not explicitly saying if this image was real or false, you can tell this is fake by employing a few key fact-checking tools.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Alex Mahadevan is director of MediaWise at the Poynter Institute. He has taught digital media literacy to thousands of middle and high schoolers, and has…
Alex Mahadevan

More News

Back to News