The 2022 midterms are high stakes for the Democratic and Republican parties, and that is especially apparent in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. The Keystone State has long been a purple state, and the Senate race between Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and TV doctor Mehmet Oz is no exception.
This race has featured a lot of viral moments. Fetterman and his campaign have attempted to brand Oz as an out-of-state carpetbagger from New Jersey, while the Oz campaign and the Republican Senate Leadership Fund have attempted to portray Fetterman as a member of the radical left.
This image that has gone viral on social media appears to show a group of restaurant workers standing with Oz and holding an Oz campaign sign sideways so that it spells NO. Sometimes images like this create a strong emotional reaction, whether laughter or anger. That’s a sign you should step back and take a breath. It could be misinformation!
This is how we fact-checked it.
Try a Google reverse image search
One way to check photos that you suspect might be doctored is to do a Google reverse image search. The results can help you assess where and when the image has appeared online before and how it was used. This can help you decide if it was taken out of context – like being taken in a different place or under different circumstances than what’s being claimed.
So, I copied the Oz photo into Google Images. One of the first results that appears is an article from Snopes, a reputable fact-checking site. Snopes explains that the image was digitally altered and provides evidence with the real photo posted on Twitter by Oz on Aug. 12.
Not Legit. This photo was clearly digitally altered. While this may have initially begun as a joke, it morphed into misinformation that was believed and shared online. This photoshopped picture likely came from someone opposed to Oz. But deceptions like this, of course, aren’t limited to just one party. They can come from the left as well as the right.
Videos can be manipulated, too
Fetterman suffered a stroke in May, and videos have been published across social media that appear to show him struggling with his speech. Here is a tweet of a video that seems to show the candidate having difficulty talking. In it, he speaks slowly and has some weird pauses.
With a clip like this, it’s a good idea to try and find the original footage from a reputable news source.
Do some digging
Sometimes finding out if something is legit or not just takes some good old-fashioned digging. First, I noticed the pink color in the background of the tweeted video clip and suspected that this might have been an event connected to Planned Parenthood.
I also could tell that Fetterman was speaking to a group of women, so I looked on YouTube and searched “fetterman women full speech pennsylvania.” The first thing that came up was this video posted by PCNTV, a nonprofit television network that covers Pennsylvania politics, history, culture and sports.
I watched the video until I got to the part that was used in the tweet. Then I played the two videos side by side, and saw that the tweeted video has been edited, cutting out the noise from the audience so that Fetterman’s pauses seem awkward as opposed to normal breaks for applause or laughter.
Not Legit. This video was clearly manipulated. It takes Fetterman’s comments out of context and manipulates the audio to change the viewer’s perspective.
When faced with suspicious videos like these, MediaWise recommends listening to the audio with these tips in mind:
- Does the voice sound whiny or more distorted than a normal human?
- Does the cadence and timing sound the way a person would normally speak?
- Can you find video from the same event from a reputable source so that you can compare the two?
Finally, during an election season, it is always good to approach anything you watch or read with a healthy dose of skepticism.
ATTENTION TEACHERS: This fact-check is featured in a free, one-hour lesson plan called “How to spot manipulated media – from “cheap fakes” to misleading photos.” It is available through PBS NewsHour Classroom, and includes presenter notes and a handout, among other resources for teachers.