Last year, Princes William and Harry hugged each other at the King’s Coronation. Around the same time, an explosion occurred at the Pentagon. If you believe the photos, that is.

When you see (or receive) powerful and emotionally stirring photos, it’s tempting to take them on face value and then forward them to your friends and family. But before you do, take a moment and ask yourself: Could the image be fake?

You don’t just have to use your critical faculties: Google Search offers free and easy-to-use tools to help you check if an image is real. With them, you can be an amateur fact-checker and press pause on misleading information.

Google Fact Check Explorer

Google’s Fact Check Explorer can be your go-to search engine for checking false claims made through photos and videos. While it’s especially useful for journalists, anyone can use it to scan the latest suspicious image or video. The home page lists the latest photos and videos that have passed or failed a fact check.

Credit: Saikat Basu

Enter a keyword (here I’ve used “John Lennon”). Fact Check Explorer will list all real and fake photos that went through existing fact checks from news outlets, research institutions, and sites like Snopes. Every fact-checked image or video will be displayed with a rating (“True,” “False,” “Misleading,” “Misattributed,” etc.). Click the cited link to read more about what fact checking was performed by the sources Google has linked to.

Alternatively, you can search by image. Select the image icon next to the search field and provide a URL or upload the image. Fact Check Explorer does a reverse image search and displays the results in the same format as the keyword search.

For instance, I tried it out with a sample image (a mysterious object found on Mars). I downloaded the image first and then uploaded it to the Fact Check Explorer. It turned out that the photograph is genuine, but according to NASA, the secret behind the image is rather mundane—it’s a wind-carved rock.

Credit: Saikat Basu

Fact checks must meet specific Google guidelines to be included in the search results.

“About this image”

About this image is a window into any image’s history, and it’s a fantastic tool we hardly use. Use it to get more context about any image—real or fake.

Perform a Google Image Search, or a reverse image search, with your keywords. Then click on the three dots next to an image in Google Images results, or click “more about this page” in the About this result tool on search results.

Credit: Saikat Basu

“About this image” will tell you when the image first appeared online. Look at a brand-new image more critically than one that reputable sites have used for a longer time. Also, read what published sources are saying about it. If the picture shows up on unknown blogs or social media posts with hyped claims, that’s usually a red flag.

Fact-checking fake images with other tools

Classic fact-checking methods are still practical. An image search like the above with Google Images, Google Lens, or any alternative reverse image search engine like TinEye will yield sufficient results. TinEye often unearths matches that Google misses, so you don’t make an error when accurate reporting is necessary.

Finally, let’s not forget the power of a good old-fashioned Google search or other search engines like Bing or DuckDuckGo. Try using keywords related to the image content, location, or the event depicted.

There are image analysis sites like Foto Forensics and Forensically. Google’s toolbox, however, is powerful enough for the casual fact checker.

Beyond the tools, critical thinking is your best friend, especially when trying to spot well-doctored deepfakes and the fake news around them. Always remain skeptical of sensational claims.