FotoForensics Turns Journalists into Image Interpreters

FotoForensics is a free introduction to image analysis. The tool uses Error Level Analysis (ELA) which is a simple algorithm. An algorithm is just a process or set of rules to be followed in problem-solving operations. FotoForensics works like a microscope by highlighting details that the human eye may not be able to identify.

ELA is a tool which comes in handy for journalists who want to determine if a photo they want to use in a new story is fact or fiction. In addition, ELA is used to identify if a photo is genuine, was modified and how it was modified.

The FotoForensics webpage looks similar to a Google search bar. Users have the choice of copying and pasting an image URL or uploading a file from their device.


Copy and paste the Image URL or click “Choose File” to get started. Once your image is selected, click “Upload URL” if you used copy and paste or “Upload File” if you choose your file from your device.


Once your file has been uploaded, your image is ready to be inspected. I uploaded an image that I captured at the beach with no modifications as the control.

There are no obvious anomalies that would lead an image interpreter to believe that this image has been modified.

You may be asking “what might a modified picture look like and how can I identify one?” Well no need to worry because the next couple of images are great examples of what modified pictures look like.

A user on Reddit posted a photo of three people on a subway train. One person is wearing headphones, one is using a VR headset, and one is wearing a mask. The picture seems to be a coincidence that would represent the Japanese pictorial fable about three macaques “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.” Is it too good to be true?

The anomaly in the upper right-hand side of the image debunks this “coincidence.” An image interpreter would be confident in saying that the man was not wearing the mask and someone modified the image to make it look like he was.

In addition, another image to debunk is the “Kim Jong Un Holding Things” meme pictured above.  Any image interpreter can take one glance at this image and debunk it as fiction, but look closely at how FotoForensics highlights the modified area.





The card is impressively different than any other aspect of this image, leading us to believe that it’s simply just an internet meme.

Keep in mind that FotoForensics is just a tool in the debunking process. It doesn’t draw conclusions or interpret results; it only shows raw data. It’s completely up to the image interpreter to determine whether the image is modified or not.

To further improve your interpreting skills, visit the FotoForensics Challenges page to put your debunking abilities to the test.