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We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future
"What's the point? Pictures don't prove anything anymore. An image from an unknown source showing up at a very convenient time? No one would take it seriously."

Photographic and video evidence of any kind is automatically accepted as genuine and unimpeachable. If someone has either one, and it shows you doing something bad, then you're screwed. The possibility that it could be digitally faked is never even considered unless the provenance of the evidence is central to the plot — and when it is proven, it is a great shock and surprise to all who were fooled by it.

It's difficult to fake these things digitally or otherwise. Not a year goes by without some fake UFO video appearing and subsequently being torn to pieces by over analyzers. Any competent effects artist or Photoshop user will tell the difference quite easily, but a layman doesn't have their experience. Thus, their surprise and credence are more understandable, but even here there is a problem.

Every show these days involves digital manipulation of some sort, right down to digitally adding the credits over the action and "fade to black." This usually includes the photo or video that, within the story, is being accepted as fact. Not surprisingly, it's starting to move into Discredited Trope territory as people in general become casually familiar with digital manipulation.


Since the trope is so prevalent, only exceptions are worth mention:

Anime and Manga
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!:
    • This is what causes Negi and company to become wanted criminals — Fate had edited video footage of their fight in the Gates to make it look like Negi had destroyed the Gates instead of Fate. Unsurprisingly, nobody makes any comments on this. Although it probably doesn't help Negi's case that there's a Government Conspiracy opposing him.
    • Chisame comments that her own website's photos are 'shopped.
  • Averted in Starship Operators. Advertisements featuring computer-generated but photorealistic models of Amaterasu's crew members are aired on the Galaxy Network, and the ending features a fake newscast, with the reporter's voice fabricated.
    CG Sinon: (referring to exercise machine) "I use it every day!"
    Real Sinon: "I DO NOT USE IT EVERY DAY!"
  • Xenosaga Episode I and its anime adaptation had the heroes needing to acquire "tamper-immune" footage clearing their names of a certain crime, because it just so happens that the organization that they're getting in the way of tampered with a black box (which should technically be impossible) and footage of the ship they're on "committing" the crime. They just changed the ship from the ship the Durandal fired at in self-defense to the Woglinde, the ship the Durandal was investigating, and not only happened to be junked earlier in the game, but two of the PCs were even there when it was sunk. Fortunately such footage existed in the mind of their super-powerful Robot Girl, unfortunately, they had to go through what was practically a Mind Screw to obtain it.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex:
    • The Tachikomas mention that nothing can be taken for face value, since it's so easy to falsify any form of data — even memories.
    • Hackers such as the Laughing Man can even make themselves invisible by hacking into people's cyberbrains and editing himself out of their sight. So you can't even trust your own eyes! In one case, a couple of homeless men who have no implants are the only reliable witnesses because they are the only people who could see his real face. Even the cyberbrain-equipped police officers were hacked, and left unable to understand the descriptions that the men gave. Any attempt to sketch the Laughing Man resulted in a picture of his logo.
  • In Cannon God Exaxxion both the invading Riofaldians and Hosuke Kano's resistance both blatantly manipulate footage to embarrass their enemies; they both accuse the other side of altering the footage they release to the public; and they both try to pass actual footage of "embarrassing" incidents off as enemy propaganda when possible.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, when Durandal uses footage of the Battle of Berlin in his reveal of Logos, the Archangel and Freedom Gundam's presence has been excised — which the Archangel crew and Freedom's pilot note to themselves.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00: The A-LAWS edit footage of a relatively peaceful military coup to make it look like the coup leaders are slaughtering their hostages. In fact it was the A-LAWS combat automatons that were doing that, and the coup soldiers were shooting at them to protect the hostages. Celestial Being notes that only the VEDA supercomputer had the ability to so quickly and seamlessly edit the footage.
  • To kick off the events of Pokémon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions, Corrupt Corporate Executive Kodai orders Zoroark to pose as the three legendary beasts of Johto and go on a destructive rampage. He then edits the footage to show certain landmarks being destroyed. An odd move, since the unedited footage alone should have been enough to support his claims, and all the editing does is allow the heroes to discover the unharmed landmarks and figure out that he's deceiving everyone.
  • Averted in episode 13 of Cardcaptor Sakura. Yukito sees a picture of Sakura doing something she couldn't have done without magic, and Tomoyo handwaves it as being a fake.
  • This comes up in Valvrave the Liberator, when the heroes try to expose the Ancient Conspiracy using video evidence. The Ancient Conspiracy immediately releases a claim that the footage was edited and fake. Some people apparently buy this explanation, but enough remain unconvinced that it becomes a major problem for them.

Comic Books
  • The graphic novel Batman: Digital Justice describes how video news footage can be digitally altered to "edit reality".
  • The prelude to Marvel's "Secret War" featured S.H.I.E.L.D. agents interrogating Killer Shrike about a robbery they have him on tape committing. This is accepted as infallible evidence despite the fact that the Marvel Universe is filled to the brim with shapeshifters, mind-altering psychics, and technological masterminds; if the Fixer can edit Godzilla into Bogart's role in Casablanca, he can frame Killer Shrike with his eyes closed.

Fan Fiction
  • In the Mai Hi ME and Hell Girl crossover "The Grinning Snake", Konoka manages to find a surveillance recording of Shizuru's attack on the First District headquarters, during which Konoka's father was killed. She shows it to the police, but they're convinced it isn't real after seeing Shizuru's Child, a combination between a squid and a multi-headed snake. Konoka is thus left with no other choice than to confront Shizuru and demand that she turn herself in, or use Ai's contract to send Shizuru to hell.
    Officer: "Man, that was some impressive CG. If I hadn't known any better, I'd swear it was real!"

Film
  • In Judge Dredd, a picture is found to be fake, with plot-significant ramifications. Interestingly, the character who discovers this goes so far as to explain how they faked it, saying it was state-of-the-art... 20 years ago.
  • The Running Man:
    • Altered video is used to frame Ben Richards for a massacre he actually tried to stop and to fake his death at the hands of the "heroic" Captain Freedom.
      • Naturally, the camera angle is exactly the same as what we see.
    • Later in the movie, Ben Richard's death is conjured up virtually.
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: Handwriting experts declare the forged documents, that show Smith bought the land where the Scout/Ranger camp was to be built, authentic. Jim Taylor either bribed the experts or hired an expert forger.
  • The Ninth Gate: The Ceniza brothers tell Dean Corso that forging an antique book is very difficult and has a low profit margin. This is expanded upon at length in the novel that the movie was loosely based on, The Club Dumas: when forging an antique book, you're not just forging an image or some text. You're producing a whole physical artifact which can - and will - be extensively scrutinized by experts to make sure it's real. You need the right kind of paper from the right time period and right manufacturer to pass chemical analysis. You need the right kind of ink as well. The right kind of binding materials, wood, leather, whatever; and the right binding techniques. And that's not even getting into making sure the fake actually looks the proper age. If there's a single flaw it will be found out sooner or later. The Ceniza brothers are experts who can do it, and will out of love for the craft of book-making and the challenge (plus the money, of course), but they cite the sheer difficulty when feigning innocence.
  • In Resident Evil: Apocalypse, this is used in reverse. The video showing the truth of the virus outbreak is declared a forgery by the Strawman News Media.
  • In Starship Troopers 3, after Sky Marshal Omar Anoke crash lands on a planet en route to Earth to give an uplifting speech after a major defeat, Admiral Enolo Phid uses a device that records her and transmits the image of Anoke in real time, saying and moving exactly as she is. She later said Anoke died in a religious terrorist bombing.
  • In the climax to Wanted none of the agents seem to consider that Morgan Freeman, the only one with access to the Loom of Destiny and who just got accused of using it for his own ends, could have faked the papers saying all of them were supposed to die.
  • Inverted in Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen. Sam meets his college roommate, who happens to run a conspiracy theorist website about the giant space robots the government is covering up. Sam, who has one of said robots in his garage, hilariously tries to convince the four guys who have spent months blogging about it that it was Photoshopped.
    • It even unintentionally draws attention to this trope when one of them insists that it couldn't possibly be faked while, of course, we're watching it being faked.
      • By Hollywood moviemakers with one of the biggest budgets in the history of the medium at their disposal. The character is likely just meaning 'impossible' in the sense of 'who would spend this much money on such a hoax?'.
  • In District 9, the Mega Corp. starts a manhunt for the protagonist by releasing a pixellated image of him supposedly having sex with an alien. They didn't even really bother with Photoshop, since the exact same scene (sans pixelation) appears in Wikus's own documentary film at the beginning, being obviously of the alien attacking him. It's blatant enough to be seen as Black Comedy.
  • Quite possibly one of the earliest examples of this is in Wargames when JOSHUA messes with the U.S. cameras so much that the only way that they can confirm that the U.S. has not been hit by nukes is by calling one of the nuked command posts and verifying that they are not dead.
  • Minority Report plays it straight at first when the protagonist finds a photo apparently of his abducted son and his kidnapper and does not stop to question its veracity, despite the fact that 100% accurate virtual reality was depicted as being available in shopping malls in only the previous scene; averted when it transpires the photo WAS faked and it was a setup to drive him to murder.
    • Somewhat justified considering his obsession with his lost son, and the fact that his only relation to the man was that he knew he would kill him more than likely made him not question the authenticity of the photo.
  • Just like in The Running Man, the hero of Fahrenheit 451 is shown to be chased and shot by the security forces despite still being alive and the people of the future take it for granted.
  • Played with in Spider-Man 3 — Eddie Brock fakes a photo of Spider-Man robbing a bank, and fools the entire staff of the Daily Bugle. Peter exposes the photo as fake. Sharp-eyed viewers may note that the base photo Peter produces is one of his own photos from the Empire State University photography department. Brock not only faked the photo, but he stole it from his direct rival. J. Jonah Jameson is not happy about having to print a retraction.

Literature
  • In the Uplift series by David Brin, their talent for special effects is one of the few advantages humans have over the eons-old Galactic cultures, who are apparently too stodgy and unimaginative to expect this sort of deception. Except, of course, for Culla in Sundiver — who does exactly this at the request of some murky powers in the elder Galactic cultures.
  • In Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the religion of Mercerism is practised by using an "empathy box", a device which enables the user to experience the sensations of a man named William Mercer. Mercer is a Sisyphean figure, whose attempts to climb an enormous mountain represent humankind's struggle to arise from the fallen state that nuclear war has brought them to, while unseen enemies hurl rocks at him. The androids attempt to prove that the experience is faked and was constructed in a studio; therefore, they insist, the feeling of empathy that Mercerists experience is also fake, and human beings are not superior to androids.
  • In Iain M. Banks' The Player of Games, it's mentioned that any recording could be created, making blackmail impossible. Usually. Ship Minds can record events in an unfakeable way — so if one of them is focusing on something you aren't meant to be doing, you are in trouble. (Even that can still be faked by other Minds, but they're generally held to be above suspicion.)
  • Honor Harrington:
    • Avoided at least three times: first when Honor is commanding her squadron of Q-ships, to make herself appear to be a merchant captain, second when the People's Republic of Haven creates execution footage more or less from whole cloth, and third when the escapees on Cerberus alter their communication signals to make it seem as if all is still well on the prison planet to enemy warships. At no time is this ever made out to be anything unusual within the universe. The execution footage is an especially intriguing example, as the good guys actually spot that it's been faked by analyzing its compression artifacts. They can't imagine why, however, because they have other reason to believe Honor has been executed.
    • In Torch of Freedom when Commodore Luff, the commander of the mercenary fleet hired by Manpower to destroy Torch, is warned off by Admiral Rozsak of the Solarian Navy, Luff considers the possibility that it isn't really Rozsak that he's talking to, but a digital recreation of him.
    • Digital manipulation is used once again in An Act of War, a short from the fifth anthology, In Fire Forged. In a complicated series of double- and triple- crosses, the protagonist (aboard a former Manticorian warship captured by State Sec) has the transmissions modified so that the crew appear to be actual Manticorian officers rather than members of State Sec. It's also used to secretly signal that they're not who they're pretending to be, by inserting an image of Honor Harrington at one of the stations — the person viewing the transmission knows Honor personally, and knows that she couldn't possibly be aboard that ship. Ironically, he knows this because this occurs when she's believed dead due to the aforementioned fake video of her execution.
  • David Weber uses it again in the Starfire novel Crusade. The Aliens use a CG image to hide that their representative hailing the Terran ship is not human. The static in the image hides that the sound doesn't precisely match the image.
  • Avoided, of all places, in At the Mountains of Madness (written in 1931 by H.P. Lovecraft) where one of the protagonist's worries is that the photographic evidence of what he chronicles may be dismissed as clever fakes by the scientific community. Similar fears are present in all Lovecraft's stories, which include a protagonist desperate to prove the existence of some kind of Eldritch Abomination to the general public. In In the Whisper in Darkness the aliens themselves seem to agree that everything the protagonist has gathered could be dismissed as cheap forgery.
  • Paradox by John Meaney has the protagonist subvert Oracles, humans who can "remember" the future, by simulating an entire, perfectly consistent but totally fake future for them and replaying it all in an instant using video projectors. Result: they can no longer tell which future memories are real, rendering all formerly perfect oracular advice suspect for that point on.
  • Ascending by James Alan Gardner has the Honest Camera, which was built by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. Since less-advanced species like humans don't have the technology to doctor images taken with it, it is acceptable evidence in courts of law.
  • Sort-of subverted in Michael Crichton's Rising Sun. Right after the death of a supposed murderer whom a security camera had shown in the act, it is discovered that the brief part where his face was visible was modified, and that the camera had originally taped someone else committing the crime. However, at first the cops swallow the doctored tape hook, line and sinker. It's only after the Crichton-surrogate brings the tape to an audio-video wizard (an expatriate Japanese woman who immigrated to the US so she would not be ostracized for her deformed hand) that the deception is revealed; as she dismantles the image step-by-step she criticizes the arrogance of the Japanese editors who made the tape; obvious-once-revealed errors such as sloppy airbrushing and extra shadows - "They think we will not be careful. That we will not be Japanese."
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 novel Titanicus, a member of Adeptus Mechanicus reveals something from sealed records which declares that the Omnissiah and the Emperor are not one, nearly causing civil war even in the face of invasion. When an adept escapes with video evidence showing that it was a power ploy on part of one member, the evidence is denounced as fraud — which, others point out, shows that things can be fraudulent, and so they do not know if the original evidence is true.
  • In the original novel version of Stephen King's The Running Man, incriminating or just embarrassing photos of the protagonist and his wife, which he, and most likely any intelligent person, recognizes as airbrushed, are displayed during broadcasts of the eponymous Deadly Game to drum up public distaste for his character.
  • Averted in Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon. An early plot point involves editing security camera tapes — not to simply remove an incriminating section, but to add in simulated footage of a character doing something incriminating.
  • X-Wing Series
    • During The Infiltration in Wraith Squadron, one of the Wraiths' most potent weapons is a "holographic overlay" computer program that can be applied to their master actor Face, converting his appearance and voice into an enemy officer's in ship-to-ship communications. It's noted that this was compiled by using the duty logs of the officer in question, which he kept in full holo due to rampant, unchecked ego. In addition, while their ship's computer is fast enough to run the overlay in real time, it takes a lot of resources — when forced by circumstance to field calls from his immediate "superior" and the Big Bad at once, Face worries that the computer will be overtaxed and cause the overlay to break down, with... problematic results. It doesn't, thankfully, partially because he goes out of his way to even out its workload.
    • When Gara Petothel becomes Lara Notsil, she carefully edits all remaining records of the dead woman - there aren't many - to show Gara's fingerprints and genetic structure, Gara's image. When the Big Bad contacts her through Lara's brother, there are family holos in the background, and the Lara in them looks like Gara.
  • In Planet of Twilight, an associate of the Big Bad fakes a holographic recording of a meeting with Princess Leia, in order to paint her as an out-of-touch Strawman Political to the locals.
  • In Mostly Harmless, Tricia McMillian is filming an interview with an alien aboard his spaceship (on the way to Pluto) and occasionally moves the camera to show the window with the stars whizzing past, noting that the effect is impressive and would have taken all of five minutes to fake at home.
  • Averted in the Starcraft novelization Liberty's Crusade. Mike Liberty's anti-Terran Dominion documentary is shot in full holo instead of 2-D specifically because full holo is much harder to alter or fake. This serves the dual roles of convincing people of its authenticity and preventing the Dominion's propaganda apparatus from futzing with it.
  • One Dragonlance novel (Kaz, the Minotaur) has an interesting case, as a magic crystal showing a murder scene is used as evidence of that murder, but the Genre Savvy protagonist knows how easy is for a magician to forge a fake one.
  • In Artemis Fowl, while hunting for fairies, Artemis tries not to get too excited upon seeing a decent photo of one, knowing the possibility of forgery. As the narration puts it, "anything could be faked these days with a PC and a flatbed scanner". He demands physical evidence and gets it, as the photo was real.

Live-Action TV
  • There was an episode of Max Headroom in which it was discovered and discussed that digital media, including images stored in digital form, are subject to new and insidious forms of manipulation, distortion, and outright fakery.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series
    • One episode was ahead of its time in this matter, sort of. Kirk was facing court martial for the death of a crewman when video footage from the bridge shows him pushing the wrong button on his captain's chair. Spock discovered that the computer had been, in fact, tampered with, and the not-so-dead crewman had altered the footage. It's never explained why no one else (including Kirk's attorney) bothers to mention the possibility before the story's climax, however.
    • Another episode had Spock using a computer to convincingly create commands in Kirk's voice.
  • Subverted in Star Trek: Enterprise — the crew projects a hologram of a sphere-builder, and one of the Xindi calls it a fake. The humanoid Xindi that sided with Earth assures him that humans can't fake a hologram as sophisticated as the one being presented.
  • In the Doctor Who serial "Trial of a Time Lord", it's established the Magical Security Cam footage used in the Whole Episode Flashback sequences has been tampered with, but we never learn what really happened.
  • In the episode "In the Pale Moonlight" of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Sisko and Garak hire a forger to create a fake recording of the Dominion leadership. The person meant to be fooled immediately searches for and finds imperfections in the recording, revealing it to be a fraud-"It's a faaaake!".
    • Double Subversion when it is revealed that Garak didn't trust the forger and planted explosives in the anti-Federation Romulan senator's ship. When the senator leaves to present the forgery to his government as an example of how the Federation cannot be trusted, the explosion kills him and damages the data rod enough to account for the already-present imperfections. When the Romulan scouts find it in the debris, it looks like the Dominion killed the ambassador because of the said data rod, prompting the Romulan Empire to join with the Federation.
    • In another episode of Deep Space Nine some seemingly-friendly aliens claim that Chief O'Brien was killed in a nuclear accident (but they really have him imprisoned). O'Brien's wife insists on seeing the footage of his death and immediately identifies it as faked, because it shows O'Brien ordering a coffee from the replicator and he "never" drinks coffee in the afternoon. After an episode full of plot where the Niners rescue O'Brien, she discovers that he drinks coffee in the afternoon all the time.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • One episode featured a plot which involved forcing a kidnapped Ambassador Spock to send a message. When Spock was rescued, they attempted to broadcast a fake holographic message instead.
    "That won't convince anyone."
    "We don't need to convince them, just confuse them long enough for that ship to reach Vulcan."
    • There are a few instances where Data's photographic memory and ability to perfectly mimic voices punch massive holes in the Enterprise's security system, such as in Brothers when he commandeered Enterprise to respond to a subspace signal sent by his father. The horrendous security breach (something his Evil Twin Lore and similar technology could also do, presumably) was not seen to be fixed, or ever brought up again.
  • In the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, a woman accuses Baltar of collaborating with the Cylons and planting a bomb prior to the Cylon attack of Caprica. Baltar gets thrown in the brig based on the security camera footage she provides. He is then released when Lt. Gaeta examines the image and finds it has been altered.
    • This particular incident had even deeper layers, as the forged evidence was deliberately made to look realistic on first glance, but be recognized as a forgery upon more detailed examination. The Plan in question was done to convince people that Baltar (someone who actually HAD collaborated with the Cylons, albeit unknowingly - he was being a traitor though) couldn't possibly be a collaborator, because why would the Cylons attempt to frame one of their own?
  • Diagnosis: Murder: Mark Sloan is convicted of murder in a borderline Kangaroo Court. One of the witnesses, a landlady, is used to authenticate forged handwriting. At no point is a handwriting expert called to testify. These web pages summarize the episodes where Sloan is falsely accused and the evidence and/or accusers do not have strong evidence or use the trial by media technique. [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6]
  • Flash Gordon: used in an episode where Flash must discredit a recording of a rift portal before the turns it into a nation wide story.
  • Babylon 5:
    • The episode "The Illusion of Truth" is based around an Earth Alliance propaganda operative acquiring interviews and other video footage to create a fake news story. There was no need to fake actual footage, but a lot of responses were moved around and taken out of context to sound incriminating.
    • In another episode the video communication of Clark proving his implication in Santiago's death is mentioned to have a digital authentication signature.
      • Despite this, the corrupt government averts this trope by immediately decrying the video as a forgery.
    • In the arc concerning Sheridan's capture and imprisonment, the EA interrogator notes that they want him to make a public confession, where a telepath can read him to ensure the veracity of the confession. He says that if Sheridan doesn't go through with it, they'll simply forge his signature and fake a recording, but know that some people will never believe it.
    • The season four finale, set in the future, had a scene where someone was using holographic recreations to produce fake and/or "politically convenient" versions of past events. Unfortunately for the propagandist, the artificial Garibaldi had the original's ethics as well as talents for security hacking and sent out footage of the Engineered Public Confession, sparking a nuclear exchange.
  • In the somewhere between quirky and bizarre (and set Twenty Minutes into the Future) miniseries Wild Palms, photos and video are routinely faked; and when a character is asked by reporters, "Isn't it true that a picture is worth a thousand words?", with regards to a key piece of trial evidence, that character responds with a sneer: "You gotta be kidding me."
  • In the sixth season of The Shield, Vic Mackie comes into possession of a photo that shows City Councilman David Aceveda being raped at gunpoint, performing oral sex on another man. Although the photo is genuine, Acaveda asserts that there's no authenticity, and issues a formal denial. "Which celebrity picture did you photoshop this from?"
  • Subverted in an episode of Family Matters, when video evidence convinces everybody on the jury except Steve Urkel, who figures out that it was edited to put the defendant's face on the real perpetrator's body.
  • Averted in an episode of The Wire, when Mayor Royce distributes photoshopped flyers showing mayoral hopeful Tommy Carcetti with a notorious slumlord. It's a desperate Hail Mary play that doesn't work in the slightest.
  • In the The X-Files episode "Deep Throat", Mulder buys a photograph of a U.F.O. from a diner waitress, only for Scully to have it checked and find out that it had been faked.
  • An episode of Star Trek: Voyager has a crewmember convicted of murder based on images supposedly extracted from the memories of the victim (a standard investigation technique on that planet). When the crew finds evidence that the images are fake, the aliens claim that's impossible.
    • In another episode, the Doctor discovers that some photos he's taken have been manipulated to edit out a crew member.
  • On an episode of Sliders with really quick Game Show-like trials with real death sentences, it's discovered a member of the crew edited a surveillance video of a crime, which he committed only to have someone to try tonight.
  • A similar thing happens in an episode of the new The Outer Limits, where a murderer sentenced to death is hunted down by the sister of the woman he was convicted of killing as part a reality tv show. It turns out that the security footage used to convict him was altered by the show's producer, since the real killer was a juvenile and thus not eligible for the death penalty and his show. In the end he gets exposed and forced to perform in the same role.
  • In Murder One, a sex video of defendant Neil Avadon using autoerotic asphyxiation is used in his murder trial. His attorney Ted Hoffman rebuts "They can do anything with videotape these days. They can make hubcaps look like flying saucers." This comes back to bite him when he finds a videotape of the murder, and needs to convince one of the conspirators to switch sides and authenticate it.
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Collateral Damage", Col. Mitchell is accused on an alien planet of murdering a woman and, in fact, has explicit and terrifying memories of doing so. Given that planet's advances in brain manipulation, the entire episode is spent figuring out how and if those memories are faked.
  • Double subverted on CSI: NY, in the episode that sent Stella to Greece. On discovering a plaster cast of a dagger supposedly buried with Alexander the Great, Mac initially assumes that it must have held a forgery. When carbon dating of a fragment of ivory from the dagger reveals that it's old enough to be the real thing, the trope is played straight and everyone acts as if it must be for real; the possibility that a forger might re-use ivory from some less-valuable or damaged antique from the same period never rates a mention.
  • Leverage
    • This was justified in that Hardison is a master computer hacker as well as they generally give other evidence to back up their altered version of events. One notable early example is The Bank Job in which Hardison fakes the security footage to make it look as if their mark, the corrupt local Judge, robbed the bank instead of the desperate father and son that had actually robbed it. The reason this works is that the local cops already new the target of the frame was corrupt and believed it without much evidence. There was also the fact that the rest of the team posed as witnesses that gave the altered version of events and their mark also shot Nate.
    • This was also used again in the episode "The Fifteen Minutes Job" in which their mark had previously altered old fashioned photos. Hardison was more impressed with this than his own digital work. This also prompted a debate between Parker and Hardison over CGI Yoda vs the original puppet.
  • An episode of Bonanza had a killer use old fashioned photo manipulation techniques using multiple exposures to fake a picture to give himself an alibi because "photographs never lie."
  • Lois and Clark had an interesting case. A tabloid reporter got a real picture of Lois and Clark in a hotel room while he was still in his tights. However, she drops the camera, ruining the film, and has to resort to Framing the Guilty Party. Jimmy discovers that the pictures were doctored just in time.
  • In an episode of Jonathan Creek, a phone message is faked to hide the fact that the caller had already been killed. This was accomplished by the killers putting him into a position where he had to read out a supposedly unrelated document that contained groups of words that could be rearranged via Manipulative Editing to form the phone message.
  • Hilariously subverted in an episode of Being Human, when a vampire records Tom and George transforming into werewolves and uploads it to YouTube, hoping to cause chaos in the human world by revealing the existence of werewolves. It utterly fails, as everyone who sees the video just assumes it's done via special effects (with one commenter even criticizing the production quality).

Tabletop Games
  • Shadowbeat, an early supplement for Shadowrun, provided game rules for playing non-criminals such as rockers, reporters, and professional athletes. The section on reporters not only provided rules for faking still or video evidence in support of your stories, but also the odds of such bogus pics being identified as fake when they're submitted to the newsnets.

Video Games
  • At the start of Mega Man 9, Dr. Wily uses some faked footage to help bolster his claims that Dr. Light is the mastermind behind the latest robot attacks.
  • In the original Command and Conquer, a journalist is covering a attack on civilians by The Good Guys - we then cut to a scene with that very same reporter in front of a green screen in a small studio. The Big Bad comes walking in, starts discussing how to spread the lie - then notices that the camera is still on and shoots it, ending the scene. Also of note is that the game takes place in 1995 or so, so its not the future, and green screens are the best we've got.
    • In addition, it's worth noting that when Nod is filming anti-GDI propaganda it often isn't faked; in one case they just paint one of their own Flame Tanks in GDI colours and film it burning down the nearest village.
    • Also used in the sequel, Tiberian Sun, where you had to take over a GDI base and use their units to attack a local Mutant community. Ironically most of your vehicles appear painted in Nod Colors on-screen, but people still believe it's GDI. It's likely done because, in a world where you have space stations, it's fairly easy to Photoshop evidence, so they had to use actual witnesses.
      • But actually averted with Kane's hello message to GDI, although you have to look into the manual to find out about it: GDI did consider the possibility that it was a fake, and had it thoroughly analyzed. The conclusion was that while there was some odd distortion, it was too little for it to be a fake (they theorize that it was the result of some form of amplifier, while later events implies that it was half of Kane's face being faked — specifically, the half that has a metal cover whenever Kane is shown 'in person' but is conspicuously missing when he's sending messages).
  • A critical scene early in Mass Effect 1 hinges on the use of an audio file recovered from a geth soldier that implicates Saren in the attack on Eden Prime. Nobody questions its authenticity, at least on-screen, which is especially odd considering that the evidence was provided by a quarian, whose race is generally not trusted by the rest of the galaxy. Though, as you arrive in the middle of the evidence being presented, it is plausible any authentication process would have been completed already.
    • On the other hand, it's veracity has several good things backing it up. Firstly, Councillor Tevos is only person to recognise that the other voice on the recording belonged to Matriarch Benezia, someone very few humans are familiar with. Secondly, the Geth unit with the information was not found on Eden Prime, which implicates Saren having contact with other Geth. Finally, the Quarian in question, Tali, had been on the Citadel for several days at that point, attempted to speak to the Council with information regarding Saren and been turned away by C-Sec, which took place before she had ever met Shepard.
  • BioWare lampshaded this trope in Knights of the Old Republic. Present an incriminating recording to Jolee, and he snarks that he saw a holovid once with a Mandalorian dancing with a rancor — that doesn't mean it really happened. The tape's legit and Jolee's pal is guilty as hell.
  • Subverted in Front Mission 3, which takes place in 2112. The explosion that happened in Yokosuka base in the beginning of the game was released to the media as a gas explosion, complete with videos. The media suspects that it's forged. It is. There's also the hilarious scene where an old soldier you run into sends you a picture of himself kicking a Wanzer in half. Surprisingly, some of the boys don't recognize it for the obvious edit that it is.
  • In Super Robot Wars Z, the protagonists, while split up, are shown footage of the other side engaging in morally reprehensible acts, which causes them to come to blows when they meet back up. The matter is resolved, but not before it's used to justify the Freedom vs Impulse battle from Gundam SEED Destiny.
    • Averted in 2nd SRW OG where Shu Shirakawa (with the help of Sapphine Grace), doctors a video about Arteil Steinbeck and Teniquette Zezernan collaborating in secret. However, while The Federation does note that the video alone is insufficient evidence and cannot be used to implicate that Arteil is in cahoots with The Guests, it did create a division within the Gaia Sabers. This video also created a lot of breathing room for the Steel Dragons, which is Shu's real objective.
  • One of the puzzles you could come across in the FMV game Ripper involves an image supposedly taken from the protagonist's girlfriend's mind, IDing the titular killer. Your task: put it through an image analyzer and prove that it was faked. There's also a puzzle where you had to break into a secret lab locked by a voice recognition system. Your task is to track down the owner of the lab, record a snippet of her voice, then alter it to say what you need it to say to unlock the lab.
  • In Final Fantasy XII the heroes use a speech altering device to make it sound like they had a VIP on board. It worked even though the person doing the impersonation was a bit tongue tied.
  • In FAMOUS 2 inverts this when you take photographs to reveal the Big Bad's plans. This should have turned the populace against him, except that he quickly retaliates by claiming it was all faked. While the populace still doesn't trust him, it's enough to save him from a lynch mob.
  • In the Ace Attorney series, quite a lot of evidence comes from photographs and video recordings which were conveniently taken by passerbys/witnesses/the police/whoever. Even if the person who provided the evidence has reason to be against the defendant though, the authenticity of such evidence is never called into question. Even when Franziska provides a photograph that supposedly shows Maya Fey shapeshifting into her dead sister (which is real, but no one seems to notice), everyone takes it completely seriously and as a plausible explanation for Maya's murder charge - that she committed the crime while possessed by a vengeful ghost. This becomes even more ridiculous in Apollo Justice and Dual Destinies, when one of the things contributing to the Dark Age of the Law is evidence forgery and yet no one considers tampering with photos or videos to be a possibility.
  • The Star Trek Online sidequest "Standoff" has a Cardassian gul get accused of attempting to defect to the True Way. One of the pieces of evidence is a recording of him speaking to a True Way agent, which the player character determines is faked.

Webcomics
  • In Schlock Mercenary video feed manipulation is fairly widespread.
    Schlock: That's not the guy who interviewed me.
    Schlock (on-screen): No problem. I wasn't in a killing mood anyway.
    Ennesby: Yeah, the interview has been edited pretty heavily.
    Schlock: I'm in a killing mood now. Let's invite them back.
  • A fantasy variant is found in Dominic Deegan, where an unscrupulous elemental mage captures innocuous phrases on the wind with his magic, then alters them to sound far worse than they actually were. He uses this to break up relationships of women he's interested in so that he can sleep with them on the rebound. His attempt to use it on Luna fails, however, because both she and Dominic are well aware of what he can do, and refuse to trust the veracity of his "evidence". One of his previous targets was Runcible Spoon's wife, and boy was he pissed when he found out.
  • Justified in Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire where a video feed is faked, but it's hoped everyone will buy it because nobody would dare interfere with the communication channels' security systems.
  • There is — well, was — a deviantART comic that put a lampshade on this trope; the main character, Doodle/Zachary, was sent to the principal office. Said principal accused him of murdering another student and shoves a picture of Doodle killing her. Doodle's response?
    Doodle: This is obviously photoshopped. Have you ever seen me smile like this?
    • What makes it hilarious is the fact that the picture showed a poorly drawn smiley-face on it.
  • In Let's Destroy Metal Gear! (again) after Snake finishes taking pictures of the Ray, Otacon claims "There's no way the U.S. Government can deny this!" Snake however just points out "Wouldn't they just say it was Photoshopped or something?" leaving Otacon speechless.

Western Animation
  • In The Boondocks, Huey gathers evidence that his Granddad's new girlfriend is really a "ho". When confronted with the pictures in front of Granddad, his girlfriend says they were Photoshopped, and Granddad believes her. Until her pimp shows up.
  • In the HBO Spawn, Jason Wynn has one of his employees fake an image of Terry Fitzgerald selling arms to terrorists. Later on, Wynne sends Merrick and a couple other agents to kill Fitzgerald. Merrick confronts Fitzgerald with the fake image, and the conversation goes as followed:
    Terry Fitzgerald: This is bullshit!
    Merrick: Of course it is.
  • Parodied in Futurama. After the crew document the evolution of life on an alien world, a creationist reviews the evidence and admits, "Well, digital photographs don't lie." Even worse, said creationist isn't called out when he presents what is obviously a whimsical artist's rendition of a hominid riding a dinosaur.
  • Alejandro from Total Drama World Tour used photo manipulation to trick Sierra into thinking Cody and Heather slept together.
  • In an episode of the Street Fighter cartoon, Bison has Balrog make a video of the good guys trashing a temple in India that would make Industrial Light & Magic jealous. They didn't even paste the good guys' likenesses over actors, and once the people look at the temple itself instead of the video they see it's perfectly fine.
  • South Park had an episode centered on Japanese whaling operations, and it turns out in the episode that the Japanese were given an edited photo from the US government that implicates dolphins and whales as the culprits behind the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and they were seeking revenge.
  • My Little Pony Equestria Girls: To make Twilight Sparkle look bad, the villains took a picture of her when she was playing soccer, cut her out of the picture and glued her into another picture to make it look like she was destroying the decorations in the cafeteria. No one, not even a well-seasoned teacher, bats an eye at this until Flash Sentry shows up and shows the obvious. They're not using Photoshop in the future because they just went backwards.
  • Inverted in an episode of American Dragon Jake Long; Jake learns that his teacher, Mr. Rotwood, is providing a cash reward to anyone who can photograph a dragon. Jake, naturally, takes photos of himself in dragon form to give to Rotwood. Rotwood declares that his photos are fake because they're so authentic looking. His logic actually isn't all that bad, as he points out that it would be impossible for someone (let alone a teenage boy) to get so close to a real life dragon without being horribly lacerated at best.
  • Inverted in an episode of Danny Phantom when Sam wasn't careful what she wished for and has changed history so that Danny never met her. She still has a photograph of her with Danny and Tucker, identical to a photo of Danny's in every way except that she's now in it, and tries to use this to prove that her crazy story about them being best friends and him having super powers is true.
    Sam: This is a photo I have of the three of us, from 8th grade. This is the same one you have in your locker. Notice anything?
    Danny: Yeah — you broke into my locker and doctored an old photo of me. (flattered) You must really like me...

Real Life
  • In Stalin's Russia, official photos of people purged for political crimes were seamlessly edited by skilled artists and technicians to erase evidence that these people exited, making this trope Older than Television.
  • In the early years of photography, several infamous hoaxes were carried out using such crude techniques as ink-doctored images, double exposures, forced perspective or two-dimensional props. To modern eyes, most such images look blatantly fake, but the very idea that a photo could be altered or staged was strange to audiences of the day.
  • Sometimes, all that new-fangled CGI technology can still trip people up. One egregious case was where the ITV news program Exposure aired some footage of the IRA shooting down a British helicopter; Except the footage was actually from someone playing the video game Arm A 2.
  • Falsified memories and data are Truth in Television. Just look at all the viral videos on YouTube out there. Shows like Attack Of The Show and MythBusters often go to lengths to point out if what happens in a video is real or staged with computer graphics. Technology has advanced to the point where it's not totally obvious what is fake and what is real — especially if the video is "filmed by an amateur."


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No Paper FutureWe Will Not Use an Index in the FutureSpock Speak
We Will Not Have Appendixes in the FutureSpeculative Fiction TropesWe Will Not Use Stage Make-Up in the Future

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