Think before you share: How to find accurate information as the crisis in Ukraine unfolds

SPOKANE, Wash – The crisis in Ukraine is dominating social media feeds. Many videos, photos and posts are popping up, all showing what’s happening in Ukraine as the crisis unfolds. Remember, not everything you see is true.

Misinformation and disinformation can spread like wildfire in times of crisis.

While some pictures and videos may look like they’re real and happening now, it’s possible they’re photoshopped or happened another time.

This video posted on Facebook shows a flyover, the post saying they’re “Russian jets in the skies of Kyiv.” Fact-checkers say the video actually did not happen recently. Instead, it’s a video from 2020 as planes flew over Moscow as part of a flyover rehearsal.

Al Tompkins, a veteran journalist, says anytime there is military action, fake photos and videos spread quickly.

“Generally, they are old videos of missile and rocket attacks from other wars and other parts of the world. At night time, they all kind of look the same.  That’s the first thing you almost always see,” Tompkins said.

To figure out what’s real or not on the internet and social media, Tompkins said people should take their time and see if it is real.

“The more incredible the photo, the less likely it is to be true. It just makes sense when you think about it, right? Remarkable, incredible things do happen, but there’s a lot of reason that people post unbelievable, remarkable video and that’s because they are quite unbelievable,” Tompkins said.

It’s important to find reputable sources. If something is being reported, it’s likely that other websites and outlets will have that same information. Double-check and see what others are saying.

“Be skeptical, but be careful not to turn cynical,” Tompkins said. “Just because some people lie doesn’t mean everybody’s lying. Cynics don’t believe anything, skeptics are open to the truth.”

There are ways to see if a photo is real and when and where it was taken. Photos have a “digital fingerprint,” as Tompkins puts it. It’s called metadata. If you put a photo into a metadata viewer, which can easily be Googled, you’ll get information about all the specifics of the photo.

It doesn’t happen every time, and it’s possible metadata could be tampered with. However, it is one tool just in case.

Another is to reverse search an image. You can put an image into a reverse search engine and it will pull up other versions of that same picture, if they have it.

Lastly, always think before you share.

“Remember that somebody’s paying attention to what you have to say. Don’t pass along rumors you don’t know are true. You may think it’s harmless, but disinformation is never harmless. It can undercut other people’s ability to understand what’s going on and it can make everyone distrustful. We’re distrustful enough without adding to it unnecessarily,” Tompkins said.

READ: How you can talk to your kids about the crisis in Ukraine