Double checking an image’s source by Reverse Image Searching

Sometimes people share images outside of their legitimate context, and this can be misleading. One way you can double check the narrative being presented alongside an image is to use one of many free online tools to see if the same image can be found elsewhere on the internet.


Members of the Birds Aren’t Real community claim that birds are actually government drones used to spy on us. The following popular post uses an out-of-context image to support the theory:

Source: /r/birdsarentreal – Can’t believe people actually fall for this smh; 10.5k upvotes, 71 comments

When we see an image which we think has been repurposed from another source, we can use “Reverse Image Search” to look for it. It’s like saying to Google “Look at this image, see if you can find any others like it on the internet, and show me where they are”.

To do this, I copied the photo’s URL (I right clicked the photo and selected Copy image address), and went to TinEye (which is my preferred Reverse Image Search tool, but Google and Bing can do this too). I pasted the URL into TinEye’s search, and got the following results:

Reverse image search results for the image posted on Reddit

We can already tell that the OP definitely didn’t take this image themselves; TinEye found this image in over 1,000 different places on the internet, and using “Sort by oldest” I can see this first appeared almost 10 years ago. Sometimes this is enough to debunk the poster’s narrative right away (especially if they claim to be showing current events), but the Searcher’s results can also provide clues to the real history to the image. In this case we can see forum users in 2012 discussing the image in the context of a disguise used to photograph wildlife (not, critically, a disguise used to photograph humanlife).

Further Reading

Here are some great resources for learning more about Reverse Image Searching:

This profile reveals more about the False Context tactic:

This is a Stage 2 profile. You can read more about Profile Stages here.