Web Photos Now Have Zero Credibility

Well-meaning researchers from Carnegie Mellon University destroyed the credibility of all photos on the web today. Alexiei Efros, assistant professor of computer science and robotics lead the team that created two related systems that, together, will do what governments and corporations could only dream of (until now).

The first program, called Photo Clip Art, uses thousands of labeled images from a site called LabelMe. These images can be added to photos. The system analyzes the geometric context of a photo, and place objects within the scene, adjusting its size as necessary to put it in proportion to other objects of equal distance from the camera.

The second program is called Scene Completion. It draws upon millions of photos from the Flickr website to fill in holes in photos. These "holes" are created when editors decide that some part of a picture is unsightly, and wants to remove it.


(Scene completion work flow)
Clockwise from top left 1) the original photo, 2) undesirable material removed, 3) thousands of possible matches scanned and 4) the new, doctored photo

This kind of work was done before, of course, but it was a painstaking and difficult chore. A person did all of the steps by hand, searching through photos for possible matches, and sizing and placing the substitute image fragments.

Now, any photo can be doctored easily, in seconds. Something unpleasant in that picture? Take it out. Don't like that person in the picture? Find someone else. Maybe even you, if you have a picture on Flickr.

I'm guessing that this technique will probably not stand up to rigorous examination of large file pictures; that's why I'm limiting it to web pictures, which are of relatively low quality. The entire graphic shown on this page is only 403x354 pixels.

Just think of all the tedious work done by Winston Smith, rewriting history in 1984 - and all that effort done with text, let alone pictures.

What happened in the unseen labyrinth to which the pneumatic tubes led, he did not know in detail, but he did know in general terms. As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of 'The Times' had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead. This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs--to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date.

Via Eurekalert.

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