Iraqi Insurgents Using Recycled Photos to Hype Captured Military Gear
Even the Pentagon uses Google for a little research, especially if it wants to show that some pictures Iraqi militants have posted on the Internet to show big pieces of captured military hardware are actually years old.
As Islamic insurgents have successfully taken the northern Iraqi city of Mosul some have taken to social media to document the spoils of their victory over Iraq's Army, including pictures of what they claim are American weapons that are now in their hands.
Some of the photos showing seized Iraqi military Humvees and trucks captured from Iraqi military bases are genuine, but the Pentagon has found a few are old photos being re-circulated as propaganda by ISIS - the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
"There has been quite a bit of ISIS propaganda," said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. "Many of the photos that we're seeing on social media and other places are complete fabrications."
Asked how the Pentagon knew some of the pictures were fabrications, Warren replied "because we found copies of the pictures elsewhere on the Internet."
It turns out Pentagon officials used a Google image search engine to prove that some of the photos making the rounds on the internet were years old and simply "cut and pasted" onto Twitter and other social media platforms.
A user can upload a photo or type in an Internet address onto Google Images to determine if the photo has been used before and possibly determine its original source.
That was the case of a photo posted Tuesday on an ISIS twitter account that showed an American Black Hawk helicopter supposedly captured in Mosul by ISIS fighters from the fleeing Iraqi military. If genuine the picture would have been proof that the insurgent group had captured a major piece of American hardware used by the Iraqi military.
But a bit of research showed the picture was probably not real since the United States has not sold Iraq any Black Hawk helicopters. Furthermore, a defense official said Thursday "We don't' have any indication that any military aircraft were seized in Mosul."
But by using Google the Pentagon quickly determined that the photo is several years old and been used repeatedly on the Internet by aviation enthusiasts though its original source is unknown.
Another photo posted Wednesday on several ISIS twitter accounts showed an Iraqi missile battery supposedly taken that day from a base in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown. The picture was accompanied the tweet "Heavy rockets spoils from Salahadeen battle #Iraq #ISIS #ISIL".
Google Images once again showed that the photo of the Soviet-made SA-6 missile battery was actually taken by an American military photographer in Baghdad in May, 2003 at Baghdad International Airport. Not only that, but the original source of the photo on the Internet is the Pentagon's own imagery website.
While the Pentagon might be using the Internet to show that not every image coming from ISIS is genuine, they're also not going to get into the business of itemizing what specific equipment the insurgent group may have actually captured from the Iraqi military.
"We're not going to get into the details of what or if any Iraqi equipment has fallen into enemy hands," said Warren.