Do y’all understand how easy it is to make a fake tweet from a screenshot? Like by inspecting the browser and changing the text? …. I don’t trust posts I can’t search up on archives. And if you do have a link, archive it (not in an image but using an reputable archiving service).

Jacky Alciné’s words are true, so I thought I’d illustrate.

The general principle here is: if you make a statement about someone or something other than yourself or your personal opinions, you need to back it up with a link to supporting material. “X said on Twitter” needs to be linked to that tweet. Leaving googling for your source as an exercise to your readers isn’t just merely convenient to you, it is actively destructive of the web. The web is links, and they’re a key piece of information for your readers to judge if what you tweeted/said/blogged might be signal or noise. No links means it’s likely noise and it will degrade your standing as a source of signals. No links is aiding and abetting the bots, trolls and fakesters, as it allows them to hide in more noise.

Adding a screen-shot as Jacky Alciné says is not enough ‘proof’, as they can easily be altered directly in your browser. An example:

Yesterday I posted my first Tweet from my recent brain implant. It was awesome! So awesome in fact, I made a screenshot of it to preserve the moment for posterity.

In reality I posted from Indigenous (see there’s a link there!), a mobile app that provides my phone with IndieWeb reading and publishing capabilities, which I syndicated to my Twitter account (see there’s another link!). Also awesome, but much less awesome than blogging from a brain implant.

The difference between those two screenshots, getting from true to fake, is that I altered the text of the Twitter website in my browser. Every browser allows you to see a website you visit in ‘developer’ mode. It is helpful to e.g. play around with colors, to see what might work better for your site. But you can also use it to alter content. It’s all the same to your browser. See this screenshot, where I am in the process of changing ‘Indigenous’ into ‘brain implant’

But, you say, tweets might have been deleted and grabbing a screenshot is a good way of making sure I still have some proof if a tweet does get deleted. That’s true, tweets and other content do get deleted. Like self-congratulatory tweets/VK/FB messages about the downing of MH17 by separatist supporting accounts, before it became clear a regular line flight was shot out of the air, and those accounts were quickly scrubbed (See Bellingcat‘s overview). Having a screenshot is useful, but isn’t enough. If only for the reason that the originator may simply say you faked it, as it can so easily be done in a browser (see above). You still need to provide a link.

Using the Web Archive, or another archiving site, is your solution. The Web Archive has preserving as much of the web and other online content as possible as its mission. It is a trustable source. They save web pages on their own initiative, but you can submit any URL for preservation yourself and it will immediately be saved to the archive. Each archived page has its own URL as well, so you can always reference it. (Many links in Wikipedia point to the archived version of a page from the point in time it was referenced in Wikipedia for this reason).

I submitted my tweet from yesterday to the Web Archive, where it now has a web address that neither I, nor Twitter can change. This makes it acceptable proof of what I did in fact send out as a tweet yesterday.

9 reactions on “Fake Is Easy, Back Up Your Words With Hyperlinks

    • Yeah, Trump’s great like that, picking up on all the hottest tweets, and giving credit where credit’s due.

      (Not…)

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