Searching for an image source on Google used to be easy, but government interference and censorship means Google is getting “smaller” and less reliable. We look at Google Lens image search facility and suggest a better option!
As we have illustrated in other articles, Google isn’t the search engine it used to be. We aren’t the only seekers-of-truth extant who have noticed the “shrinking” of Google’s search results. The primary causes appear to be political. In the aftermath of Trump’s 2016 election victory and NZ prime minister Ardern’s strident call for tighter censorship following the Christchurch Mosque terror incident of 2017, Google commenced on a regular “tweaking” of its algorithm architecture.
This means Google’s searches no longer track to source, but only show what Google limits to your region. very frustrating for the dedicated researcher.
Ironically, the creation of this very article was prompted by the images from an earlier article on Google image searches becoming obsolete, as the images we used for demonstration are no longer available on Google!
There are, however, other facilities available. One such tool is the Way Back machine which we feature in a separate article.
but in this article we’ll focus on image history searches.
If we wish to check the veracity of an image (has it been manipulated? Misrepresented? Where and when did it originate?) there tools available to the keen researcher and truth-seeker.
First, we’ll show you the current Google Lens search and how to use it, then we’ll show you what we believe to be a far superior alternative, called TinEye.
Let’s assume the reader has an image in mind that you wish to track back to its source, or at least see its history and usage. In this case I’m using a well-known still from a segment of gun-camera footage alleged to show a UFO. This image has received massive mainstream publicity in the past few months at the time of writing, but how long has it been in the public domain? let’s see if we can find out.
Note that as a test of Google’s efficiency, the author knows in advance exactly when the footage from whence the still was taken was released into the public domain, (December 2017) as verified by NAVAIR’s FOI document archive. https://www.navair.navy.mil/foia/sites/g/files/jejdrs566/files/2020-04/2%20-%20GIMBAL.wmv
For the purposes of this exercise, I’ve saved a copy of the image to the “Pictures” file on my laptop.
Save an image to file
Not sure how to do this? It’s easy. Hover your cursor over the image you wish to save, Right-click, and select the “save image as” option from the drop-menu. You’ll be prompted to save the image as shown below. This is Windows 10, but same principle applies on most operating systems.
Google Lens Image Search
Having opened Google Images, left-click the “Lens” icon circled in yellow below;
In this instance we are searching the UFO image I previously saved, so select “Upload a file”.
Once you’ve found the saved image (which in the case of Windows 10 appears in “recent files”, having been recently saved) select the highlighted image (red arrow) and open the file (yellow circle)…
you’ll be taken to this page. Select the “Find image source” option:
In the good old days, you’d actually be taken to the image source, meaning the very first time the image appeared online in the public domain.
Sadly, you’ll instead get the run-around from Google…
In this instance Google tells us there are “about 1730” search results. So we scroll back through the pages, and suddenly find upon reaching page 26, we’ve reached the end at a mere 254 results. Where did the rest go?
To add to the frustration, the results are NOT in descending order latest-to-earliest. So, on page 26 (last page of results) we find a date of April 2019 on several entries. But lurking on page 22 amidst a list of entries dated for 2020-2021, we find a single (and anomalously early) entry for 2015 in association with this image! (the author knows with certainty that the footage was filmed in 2015 and released into the public domain in 2017). If the researcher trusted Google’s results, we’d have to conclude that 2019 would be the earliest appearance of the image in question, but we can’t be sure.
If, like this author, your time is very limited, these shenanigans are enough to drive one insane.
There has to be an easier way to do this, and there is!
TinEye Reverse Image Search
This free and very user-friendly resource works much the way the old Google Reverse image History Search used to function. They even provide a tutorial for the technically challenged.
From the Google image, Right-click and select “copy image link” from the drop-menu. paste the link into the TinEye search box.
In this instance we are told there are 2,447 results. Way more than Google’s claim. What we are told is what we get. The last entry, number 2.447, is bang up to date on the day of this article’s writing.
Furthermore, the first results are the earliest and give a date of December 17, 2017. This date is concurrent with the initial unauthorized public release of the footage. (It was officially authorized for release in 2020, re-igniting mainstream media interest and leading many to believe, erroneously, that 2020 was the first public appearance).
Thus, Uncensored can no longer recommend Google as an efficient or accurate search tool, but for image searches, TinEye gets our nod of approval! Note that paid subscribers can also access many other useful features, such as checking the copyright and ownership of an image.
We hope this article was helpful, and if so please check out our article on another great research resource, the Way Back Machine: