Here is a fascinating example of how photo "enhancement" can actually derail a crowdsourced investigation. #CapitolRiot #OSINT

It began when @bellingcat sought the public's help ID'ing the rioters who attacked Officer Brian Sicknick. 1/9
Many people submitted photos, and one thread of the investigation, led by @jsrailton, began to focus on "Extinguisher Man," caught on video throwing a fire extinguisher at police. 2/9
Somebody discovered a close-up view of the man's face in some footage of the event. Unfortunately, because it was a still from a video, it was somewhat blurry. 3/9
Another person sought to help by "enhancing" the photo using sharpening and de-noising tools. While readers in this thread acknowledged this process created artifacts, the "enhanced" image was posted out of context in other threads, causing problems. 4/9
For example, the "enhanced" photo Extinguisher Man was reposted in this thread, where it attracted (as of this writing) over 40K retweets and 50K likes, and nearly 2K replies. Unfortunately, no mention of the photo editing. 5/9
This caused a problem when sleuths started taking the photo's artificial details seriously. One person speculated that the hat's artifacts were actually hidden letters intentionally covered over. This tweet got 1K likes and spawned a new thread. 6/9
One person even became convinced that Extinguisher Man had "DEFINITELY" altered the hat's letters, likely with electrical tape. Replies debated the material (tape vs. sharpie), the original letters (CPD, DPD), various motivations for covering them up. 7/9
Eventually, others posted additional video footage and pointed to image compression as the likely source of the artifacts, and the person changed their mind about the electrical tape alteration. But valuable time and energy had been wasted. 8/9
Some possible takeaways: For crowdsourced investigations, we need better ways to capture and retain image provenance. We need better ways of coordinating investigation activities across threads. And we need to be careful about software tools that can hurt more than they help. 9/9
Update: Robert Sanford (a.k.a. "Extinguisher Man"), a retired firefighter from Chester, PA, was arrested this morning on multiple federal felony charges. wsj.com/livecoverage/t…

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