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Iran’s digital duping

Yesterday’s Iranian missile tests escalated tensions between the Islamic Republic and Israel. A single image captured this bold gesture for many news outlets: four missiles blasting toward the sky.

The photo ran on several front pages Thursday morning, including The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and LA Times, as well as the websites of MSNBC, BBC, and The New York Times.

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But the picture was fraud – digitally embellished before the Agence France-Presse photo service circulated it around the world. Only three missiles launched at the time of the photograph, a fact unknown to many Western newsrooms until “The Associated Press distributed what appeared to be a nearly identical photo from the same source, but without the fourth missile,” reports the NY Times.

There was another missile on the ground – Iran launched at least 9 missiles yesterday – but someone copied and pasted parts of the other billows to forge the fourth.

('Edited' image courtesy 'Original' image courtesy

In the fake, the flaming tail of the second missile directly matches that of the third. And the dust cloud below the third mirrors the fourth.

Agence France-Presse retracted the photo this morning and says it received the manipulated image from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s news website, Sepah News.

There have been past allegation that Iran’s state media forges or at least fiddles with its images. But, according to the Times, “it can’t be said with any certainty whether there is any official Iranian involvement in this instance.” We can't rule out the possibility that this was just some photographer or editor acting on his own.

Last August, the Monitor and image expert Hany Farid pulled together a video on how to spot Photoshop fakes. Here’s the link.

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