IT'S NOT A SCREENSHOT! IT'S A THUMBNAIL! ...But Go Ahead and Double-Check It Anyways.

Smokescreen-shot

By LoonyLiberal | Sin City Screwballs | 25 Apr 2022


DISCLAIMER:

I use shorte.st to shorten hyperlinks. I also get a fraction of a cent when people click these links.

I will gladly provide clean links upon request.


I'll start this blog post with a screenshot of my favorite bible quote:

Fig. 1: yahweh Control!

Fig. 1: This Preceded 40 Days and 40 Nights of Purple Rain.

One does not need to be an ordained clergy member to realize that that screenshot is, indeed, not in the bible. It is a screenshot of some of the lyrics from Prince's NSFW Pussy Control where all instances of "pussy" have been replaced with "yahweh."

And it is a demonstration of why I'm wary to treat screenshots as irrefutable proof during online discussions.


PUTTING THE "CRAP" IN "SNAPSHOT"

I've said (and, hopefully, proven) that trolls will do anything to look like they're correct... without actually being correct.

One psuedo-intellectual trick that trolls will attempt to pull is to respond to "prove it" with a JPEG/GIF/PNG/etc. that shows an alleged piece of an alleged source that backs their claim.

...as opposed to... oh, say... a hyperlink to the full article.

The snapshot response has multiple problems:

  • As I've demonstrated, falsifying a snapshot is simple. For my intro, I used only Word and Paint. Imagine what a properly-motivated troll could do with more sophisticated software and time.
  • Many snapshot do not give any indication what or where the source is. A cropped quote about physics could be from Bill Nye, Bill Cypher, or Bilbo Baggins. Those who don't fact-check can find themselves easily duped.
  • A snapshot is not an entire article. There can be -- and often is -- additional text in the same source that either mitigates or absolutely negates the screenshotted text. A good rule of thumb when faced with a specific block of screenshotted text is to wonder what the person who posted the screenshot is trying to hide.

THE ADVANTAGE OF LINK

When someone challenges me for proof (and if/when I haven't demonstrated that they're sealioning), I provide a hyperlink as a response. My go-tos include Britannica and Merriam-Webster (if for no other reason than that anyone who wants to yell at dictionaries and encyclopedias are provably too stupid to be taken seriously). For starters, a verifiable and certifiable academic website that corroborates my claims and statements is a solid source. Also, since I'm not infallible, I occasionally post to an article that undercuts my statement; whereas I'm not thrilled to admit my errors, it gives me a chance to correct them, which leads to fewer errors in the future.

Another benefit is that providing a hyperlink is far less work than editing and posting an image. Hyperlinks are pure text. Copy. Paste. Tweet. Done in seconds. Contrast with taking a screenshot, editing it, cropping it, tweeting it, waiting for the tweet to post, and the response time increases to anywhere from a minute to several hours.

One can post several hyperlinks in several threads over the course of several hours.

So not only are screenshots suspect, they're also inefficient in terms of time and labor.


One key aspect to a safe internet experience is the ability to detect and handle lies (a.k.a. "misinformation," "alternative facts," "anything that a GOP politician tweets"). Since trolls don't realize that being truthful is less effort, they devise ways to make their lies look truth-ey. Screenshots instead of articles is one such method, and it's one that fails to impress me. I admit that I use memes in response to generic and overused talking points, but I wouldn't think of using this image to verify a claim I would make about the origin of the tank top:

Fig. 2: And That's the Tanks I Get! (with Apologies to Crow T. Robot)

Fig. 2: And That's the Tanks I Get! (with Apologies to Crow T. Robot)

I certainly don't want the rest of humanity to be as paranoid as I, but when it comes to the internet, a great rule of thumb is to err on the side of verification. Those who don't will find themselves easily duped by someone who lies for sport or for profit.

I just hope that they take a shot of their face when they realize that they fell for a screenshot scam.

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LoonyLiberal
LoonyLiberal

I have 15 years of experience as a software tester. I've been writing off-and-on for 28 years. I adapt quickly to new technologies and new methodologies. And I believe that humor is the most important social skill.


Sin City Screwballs
Sin City Screwballs

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