Digitally manipulated photo. Can also refer to using a camera (that records video but isn’t specifically a video camera) and telling your subject you’re taking a photo, but secretly taking a video!
The word “Fauxtography” was coined by the webloggers during the 2006 Lebanon War photographs controversies. It was first used to illustrate the altering of a photograph by a Reuters photographer called Adnan Hajj. According to the New York Times (2006), the picture was taken on 5 August 2006 showing an Israeli airstrike on Beirut Lebanon. It was then published on Reuters news service on 6 August 2006 and was discovered by bloggers that it had been manipulated. Hajj was accused because his photo shows “thick and dark smoke rising from the buildings” while in the original, unaltered photo, the smoke is “less intense and the color is lighter”; mentioned by National Public Radio (2006). The doctored photograph was subsequently retracted by Reuters.
Using photo editing software, such as Photoshop, to digitally manipulate images. Cropping or covering up part of the pictures, and removing the unwanted parts in order to hide the facts. Photographing staged scenes or simulated news events in order to present them as real. Giving inaccurate or misleading captions to spread misdirect information.
The first purpose is political. The government may have fake photos to protect their public image. To create news that benefits the government, sometimes the may want to create news by editing photos to get the trust of their people and parade themselves in different areas such as technology or morality.
The second purpose is for the benefit of news departments. To increase the sales of their publication, some editors may want to improve their impact by image manipulation. Also to match the political reasons such as censorship from the government, news departments decide editing photo in order to continue their business.
Moreover, for the convenience of the news department the editor uses the same photo for similar articles instead of taking a new photo. Therefore, they will manipulate photos by editing the date or some of the background.
At the same time, fauxtography may sway the reliability of the photo. Institutions such as government departments and news media carry responsibility to reveal the truth with no censorship. The public relies on authoritative information to witness world events. Fauxtography brings questions and doubt to the credibility. It may turn out to be misleading and exploiting the public’s trust. Fauxtography distorts how we see our past, affects our current and future behaviour and so it has become a cause for concern.
An example of fauxtography by a government refers to a photograph published in 2015 when the Guangdong Wuhua County of government of China altered a photo of visiting the elderly. According to the China Radio International(CRI) Online, the original photo includes only government officials with the elderly while the edited photo was adding with condolences supplies by Photoshop. However, people finally discovered the manipulation as the poor skills of editing the image. The editor of CRI Online mentions that the government edited the photo as they want to show off their achievements to the public and they believe that the public will accept their way to do.
A second example of government fauxtography refers to a photograph published in 2015 when the Russian government’s credibility was called into question by the international media because the Russian Defense Ministry doctored MH17 satellite images. MH17 was shot on 17 July 2014. Russia’s Defense Ministry published three satellite images through Russia’s Channel One and Rossiya TV stations which showed Buk missile launchers belonging to Ukraine's army near the eastern city of Donetsk in the days around the shooting-down. Nevertheless, after the analysis of the photographs, the report showed the images had been edited and compressed using Adobe Photoshop CS5. Russia intended to falsely mislead the public about the date of the photograph. It used photoshop to add cloud cover to obfuscate terrain features apparently but this helped determine the actual date the photos were taken.
Bellingcat, an independent analysis group, proposed that Russia deliberately attempted to deceive the public, global community, and the families of the Flight MH17 victims by doctoring photos. Bellingcat suggested that the Russian government was trying to conceal its military's activity in eastern Ukraine. Some media sources also described the photographs as “propaganda” to cover up criticism while President Putin attended the G20 summit.
A third well-known fauxtography incident occurred in India when the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was pictured at Chennai floods scene. On 3 December 2015, Modi updated his personal Twitter feed(@narendaramodi) with one of the photos of Modi inspecting the flooding by plane on Twitter, which is blurred and saying he was “pained by the devastation” he had seen. The Press Information Bureau (PIB) reposted this tweet. A few hours later, the PIB published a photoshopped image on its official Twitter account, with a clearer and sharper view of the submerged city. However, the photo was soon deleted from the PIB feed.
On Friday 4 December 2015, the Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting admitted the fact of merging two pictures, and stated that “this happened due to an error of judgement and the picture was subsequently deleted.” The ministry further said the PIB expressed their regret for the manipulation. The Indian Express was told that the officials involved have been asked to report the standard operating procedures they had.
Meanwhile, this incident went viral on social media worldwide, and it soon derived a chain of parodies, for example, changing the flood view to a washing machine or a dinosaur etc.
The Indian media criticized the PIB’s behaviour as it “causes scorn” and making unnecessary edits, given that Modi did actually conduct the aerial survey, some media even accused this as false and exaggerated propaganda.