Fake images: The effects of digital media literacy on assessment of image credibility

In the digital age, authenticity of images has become a topic of considerable concern. Fake or manipulated images can deceive viewers, emotionally distress them, and skew their understanding of events and issues. “Fake images: The effects of source, intermediary, and digital media literacy on contextual assessment of image credibility online,” is a paper by Cuihua Shen, Mona Kasra, Grace A. Bassett, Yining Malloch, and James F. O’Brien.


The paper aims to understand how individuals evaluate the authenticity of images that accompany online stories, particularly focusing on the influence of the source, intermediary, and digital media literacy on the contextual assessment of image credibility.


The researchers conducted a large-scale online experiment using Amazon Mechanical Turk, comprising six batches, to investigate the factors that affect the assessment of image credibility.

Key Findings

  1. Source Credibility: The credibility of the source significantly impacts how individuals perceive the authenticity of an image. Trustworthy sources are more likely to lead to a higher assessment of image credibility.
  2. Intermediary Influence: Intermediaries like social media platforms or news aggregators can affect the assessment of image credibility. The study found that the way these intermediaries present images plays a role in shaping user perception.
  3. Digital Media Literacy: The level of digital media literacy among individuals is another key factor. Those with higher media literacy tend to be more skeptical and discerning in evaluating image credibility.
  4. Emotional Responses: The paper highlights that fake or manipulated images propagated online have the capacity to deceive, emotionally distress, and influence public opinions.
  5. Need for Improved Tools: The study concludes that there is a need for better tools and education to help individuals critically evaluate images online, given the increasing prevalence of manipulated images.


The paper provides valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of image credibility assessment online. It emphasizes the complex interplay between source, intermediary, and individual factors in shaping perceptions of image authenticity. The findings underscore the need for enhancing digital media literacy and developing tools to aid users in discerning the credibility of images on the web.

These key findings offer a comprehensive understanding of how individuals evaluate the authenticity of images online and the factors that influence their judgments. The implications of this research extend to various domains, including media, education, and technology, and contribute to ongoing conversations about misinformation and digital literacy in the contemporary media landscape.