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Sophie Nightingale/University of Warwick

Fake photos abound and, unfortunately, we don't seem to be particularly good at spotting them: about one-third of doctored photos went undetected by participants in a new study.

Why it matters: Photos — admitted as evidence in courts, used to bolster positions in campaigns and to diagnose conditions — can shape our memories and beliefs. They're being altered in sophisticated ways that, if undetected, could have profound consequences.

"Pretty much everybody is susceptible to falling for fake images, which was surprising," says lead author Sophie Nightingale from the University of Warwick.

What they did: In two experiments, Nightingale asked more than 1300 people total whether 10 photos were altered or originals. The images of real-world scenes were manipulated in two different ways: physically implausible manipulations like shadows from two sources, and plausible ones like whitening teeth or adding trash cans to the picture.

  • On average, people could classify the photos correctly 60% of the time in the first experiment (and 65% in the second) — slightly better than the odds of a 50/50 guess.
  • Even when they recognized something was wrong with an image, participants in the first study could correctly identify what had been manipulated only 45% of the time on average.
  • Test yourself here.

What's next: The researchers are looking into whether people can be trained to better spot forged images, Nightingale told Axios. For example, when forgers change an image they may leave tell tale signs in the shadows. Computers can look at the position of light and find what has been manipulated. The researchers want to know if people can be taught to do this, too.

Go deeper: Altering images can be laborious (Nightingale notes the study included only 10 manipulated images because of the time and skill required to doctor them) but soon computers will likely be creating fakes — and detecting them.

Go deeper

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
48 mins ago - Health

Experts fear a bad flu season on top of COVID

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Public health officials are warning that the U.S. may be on the verge of a dangerous double whammy: COVID and flu, spreading simultaneously.

The big picture: The Delta variant is still circulating across the U.S., and the Omicron variant isn't far behind. On top of that, experts see potential warning signs of a bad flu season, which could leave millions of Americans vulnerable and strain health care resources.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Australia joins U.S. in diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Australia is joining the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games in protest of human rights abuses committed by China's government, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: After the Biden administration's announcement that U.S. officials won't attend the Games due to the ongoing genocide of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region of China, Morrison said at a Sydney briefing that Australia would follow suit as "it's the right thing to do."

Progressives to file resolution to strip Boebert's committee seats

Rep. Lauren Boebert walking through the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House progressives are planning to introduce a resolution on Wednesday to strip Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) of her committee assignments, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The move, which was first reported by the Washington Post, comes as progressives — anxious to see the right-wing firebrand face retribution for her recent comments — have grown frustrated by Democratic leadership's inaction on the issue.