Did The Media Lie About Trump’s Inauguration Crowd?

Amidst the coverage of Donald J. Trump’s Inauguration on January 20th in Washington DC on image caught the attention of social media, as well as media outlets on TV, the internet and in print.

The image shows a view of the National Mall taken from atop the Washington Monument, comparing the crowds for Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration and Trump’s 2017 Inauguration.

trump-crowd-obama-crowd

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Did CNN Photoshop Oregon Shooter To Look Whiter?

An unsourced and unverified claim that CNN altered an image of Oregon university shooter Christopher Mercer to look whiter has been making the rounds of right-wing and conspiracy websites. Is it true?

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Nope. It certainly isn’t.

The claim about CNN specifically may have originated from the Conservative Treehouse website, as it doesn’t cite a source for the image or claim.

The fact that there is no CNN branding and no evidence of the image having been photographed from a TV or otherwise captured from a broadcast is the first very big sign that it’s fake.

The image, as shown there and on other websites, appears to have originated from a Twitter user @andieiamwhoiam who tweeted the two versions together at 12:03pm Eastern Time on Friday October 2nd. Her tweet blames “the media” for the whitening, rather than CNN specifically.

While she seems to be the first to have posted that specific combination (and admits having created it) she didn’t create the original edited version of his photo. She had apparently seen it tweeted by another user (@Bastille1790) a little while earlier. That user had tweeted it even an hour before that, saying (as a joke I think) that it was from MSNBC.

Where did @Bastille1790 find it? The answer seems to be 8chan’s /pol/ board where it was posted in a thread about the shootings and the media’s description of him as white by users playing at photoshoping his image to be more white looking.

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In fact CNN’s media correspondent, Brian Stelter, pointed out on Twitter that CNN has not broadcast any images of the shooter.

Twitter and Timezones

Issues with timezones are a pretty common feature of conspiracy theories. There are the times when Google results are datestamped improperly, and often now claims that Tweets were sent before an event is supposed to have taken place.

The problem with Twitter is that it converts times to what it thinks is your local timezone. It’s imperfect. For many US users especially it confuses timezones, showing Pacific Time instead of Eastern Time. Unfortunately it doesn’t actually display a timezone indicator to make it clear which timezone it’s using.

Take a recent example below – a tweet from a journalist on site at the end of the car chase following the recent Virginia shooting. It shows 9am, which would be hours before the event actually took place.

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But, not surprisingly, it wasn’t sent hours in advance. It’s just a timezone problem, and this is very easy to confirm.

On the individual tweet view, simply View Source of the page. Once the source is open hit CTRL-F and search for “data-time” – the first one that shows up will be the timestamp of the tweet (it will show up for each tweet on the page, so replies will be further down the page).

The 10-digit number there is the Unix timestamp of the tweet – the number of seconds passed since Jan 1, 1970 in UTC (or GMT if you prefer).

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You can copy and paste that in an online Unix timestamp converter an get the time, in UTC, that it was posted. Then convert that to whatever timezone you want to verify… Or you can do it in one simple step but just asking Wolfram Alpha.

Now you need never again wonder when a tweet was really sent.

UPDATE:

When I wrote this I possibly overlooked the more high profile of the supposed Twitter timestamp errors – the tweet by Chris Hurst, WDBJ anchor and Alison Parker’s boyfriend – which some claim was sent 15 minutes before the shooting!

It wasn’t. It was sent 2 hours and 48 minutes after the shooting.

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The same process will reveal the Unix timestamp of the tweet to be 1440595878 which turns out to be 9:31am EST.