Photo of protest against Imran Khan’s removal edited to make crowd appear larger

Clear digital cloning errors visible in the image

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Claim: A picture shows a huge crowd of people at Lahore’s Liberty Chowk protesting against the removal of Imran Khan as Pakistan’s prime minister.

Fact: A filter, which duplicates the original image beyond its borders, has been applied, making the crowd appear larger than it in fact was.

The picture, although real, has been doctored to make the crowd appear larger than it actually was.

On 11 April 2022, Facebook page ‘Dekhlo’ posted a picture of a crowd that had gathered in Lahore to protest against the removal of Imran Khan — the former prime minister and current chairperson of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) — from office a day prior through a no-confidence vote.

Captioned “This is LAHORE! Totally #UNREAL,” the picture showed a large number of PTI supporters at Lahore’s Liberty Chowk. Numerous people in the comments of Facebook and Twitter posts carrying the same image claimed it was edited to make the crowd appear larger than it in fact was.

Soch Fact Check decided to investigate the claim that the picture is doctored.

Fact or fiction?

Soch Fact Check analysed the image of the crowd in question and found six errors, as illustrated in the graphic below.

In Figure 1, we have highlighted four spots that appear to have been cloned and duplicated. In Figure 2, the borders of the original image are emphasised, indicating that the actual crowd is smaller than the enhanced crowd seen in the background of the image in question.

A video of Liberty Chowk shot from a nearby apartment also shows the real size of the crowd.

In addition, Soch Fact Check traced the photo back to the Twitter account of Shahbaz Gill, Khan’s Special Assistant on Political Communications. In the comments to Gill’s tweet, numerous people pointed out that the image was doctored — here, here, here, here — and one user shared the original image.

The unedited image was also shared on Facebook page ‘Viral Pakistan’.

Virality

Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis for the period since 9 April 2022 to the date of this publication using the following search terms:

  • “PTI Liberty”
  • “لاہور لبرٹی”
  • “یہ لاہور ہے   بات سمجھ میں آئی یا ابھی بھی نہیں”

The first search term was the most popular, with 1,039,225 interactions across more than 2,200 posts. The second and third search terms, on the other hand, turned up 576 posts with 108,578 interactions and 4,627 interactions across 101 posts, respectively.

Soch Fact Check narrowed the search to include photos only, which turned up 240 posts with 123,282 interactions for the first term, 81 posts with 46,774 interactions for the second term, and 38 posts with 719 interactions for the search term.

Two verified Facebook accounts, including ‘Nimra Ali’ and ‘PTI Lahore’, also shared the doctored image.

Conclusion: The picture of a large crowd of people at Lahore’s Liberty Chowk protesting against the removal of Imran Khan as Pakistan’s prime minister has been doctored to depict a larger crowd than was actually present.

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