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How Do People Decide Whether to Trust a Photo on Social Media?

NYT Open – We asked 34 readers how they judge credibility of news photos. “…At The News Provenance Project, we wanted to find out how publishers can help readers make more informed, confident judgements about the credibility of news photography. To do this, we focused on how we might surface the metadata — such as descriptive captions, time and location information — that journalists embed in photography files. At the same time, we wanted to see if we could leverage the history-tracking capabilities of blockchain technology to ensure that that metadata stays embedded with news photography as it travels around the internet. We worked with IBM Garage, which built a prototype using the open-source Hyperledger Fabric platform (more on the prototype later). However, even if we could use blockchain to effectively display the history of a news photo, we still needed to understand what gives people the confidence to make informed judgements about the credibility of news photography when it matters most…Some people were more likely to trust what they perceive as fact-based reporting by news outlets they were familiar with, such as CNN and The New York Times. They were wary of sensational, outrage-based posts from individuals and lesser-known, hyper-partisan news outlets. Posts with words like “shocking” immediately triggered skepticism, compared to a matter-of-fact “newsy” stylistic tone, which they perceived as more objective.

Other people we spoke to were skeptical about the credibility of all news outlets that report on political issues. They believe all outlets are biased and cherry-pick content toward agendas under the guise of objectivity. This distrust was often applied across political lines, with outlets as different as Fox News and The New York Times being regarded with skepticism. This anti-media sentiment has been noted by previous research, such as the 2019 Poynter Media Trust Survey, which reported 53 percent of respondents as having a negative or very negative view of mainstream media institutions…”

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