Tracing the Kadafi photo – where did it come from?
Less than 24 hours ago rumors started circulating on Twitter that Moamer Kadafi was found and allegedly dead. You can check the real time results for Kadafi on Skylines. Together with the rumors the photo below started circulating.
At Skylines we try to organize the world’s real time photos by indexing an ever growing number of real time photo services. We currently index 1.2 million photos per day. We immediately saw a sharp increase in photos shared about Kadafi (and a number of other spellings of his name) – the graph shows photos indexed by Skylines per hour on this subject
But the question is of course, is this photo true and who’s the photographer? With the growth of real time (photo) networks, we have seen many cases of photos attributed to a specific news event that were fake, staged (like those in many conflict areas) or simply attributed to the wrong events (like the Irene cloud formation).
So what about this photo? It seems to be a capture of a (video?)camera or cellphone showing Kadafi being captured. It also shows a timestamp of “2011-10-20 12:23pm” (but this can of course be wrong or manipulated). I have been backtracking this specific image on Skylines and found out it showed up in our database right the moment is was shared (2:18pm). It was a photo shared by @isneack on Twitpic (currently viewed 1300+ times). I have been trying to get in contact with @isneack about the search of this photo, but haven’t heard back.
Interestingly enough, this photo showed a larger perspective, where you see some of the navigation buttons (“Menu” and “Home”) of the device that the original image must have been captured on. A photo just one minute later shows the cropped version that went viral on Twitter: (currently deleted – viewed 32,000+ times when I checked yesterday).
Around 3:20pm this photo (the cropped version) went viral, when the news was shared through many wire services and breaking news services online. It was attributed to Philippe Desmazes from AFP. I have been in contact with AFP (thanks @patrick_baz and @Francois_Bougon!) and found out that this photo actually hit the AFP wire at 2:15pm (an hour earlier before it went viral). I called Patrick Baz and heard his story about the photo. He was the person at AFP who had received this photo from Philippe Desmazes, who was on the ground in Libya. Philippe took the photo from the screen of the telephone of one of the rebels who were sharing a video about the capture of Kadafi through Bluetooth on their phones. That full video hit the AFP wire about two hours later through an Iraqi journalist.
A timeline reconstruction:
- 12:23pm supposed original photo taken (if camera date is correct)
- Mobile telephone screen being photographed by Philippe Desmaz
- 2:15pm photo hits AFP wire http://twitter.com/#!/Patrick_Baz/status/126994829459734528
- 2:18pm photo posted by @isneack http://twitter.com/#!/isneack/status/126995596870565890
- 3:20pm @mpoppel reports news through WireService about killing or capture of Kadafi http://twitter.com/#!/mpoppel/status/127011203326287873
- 3:22pm AFP article with cropped photo posted by @AFP http://twitter.com/#!/AFP/status/127011744420868096
So it seems that @isneack picked up this photo from the wire – even before it started to emerge online. It might be that he has direct access to the (AFP) wire, but as I haven’t been able to get into contact with him, I don’t know for sure. We do know that this picture went viral because it was posted to an easily accessible (viewable) real time photo service.
The story of this Kadafi photo shows that news and photos are travelling very fast, especially on real time networks. It also shows that within this huge space of real time photos, it is very hard to assess the accuracy and truth (the original source) about photos being shared in breaking news stories.
At Skylines we are working hard on our next generation of products that give consumer and enterprise clients new ways of making sense of this ever-growing stream of real time photos. If you’re interested in this, don’t hesitate to talk to us for more info via firstname.lastname@example.org.