Blending my two most recent themes, I was reminded today of a Star Trek:TOS episode “Court Martial” where the digital records on the Enterprise were modified to “Frame” Capt Kirk.Â (Summary at Wikipedia) It was quite an interesting thought, back in the early 1960’s.Â Think about it.Â Digital video records?Â Really?Â And you can MODIFY them?Â The Wikipedia summary points out the problem with relying on computer-based evidence:
Spock enters, ready to present new evidence on behalf of his Captain: the suspected tampering of the computer system. Without any real evidence to back up the claim, Spock insists that aside from himself and the Captain, only Mr. Finney had the knowledge and clearance to alter the computer logs and he believes Finney is still aboard the Enterprise. Kirk’s lawyer asks the trial to reconvene aboard the Enterprise to see proof of the defense’s new theory. The prosecution objects to the new request, stating the computer files are proof enough of Kirk’s guilt. The court overrules when Cogley states that a man’s guilt can not be proven by a machine, since machines can make mistakes. The court seems to agree.
Jump ahead 40 years, and we find from the New York Times that apparently the image of the four missiles being launched by Iran was photoshop’d.Â The most benign argument is that they launched fewer than four missiles.Â The image from the NYT shows where the “clone” tool was apparently used.
One could easily use this as another example of the news media failing to conduct due-diligence before running a photograph.Â I would argue that, in this case, the process worked.Â They ran a photo from a news agency, and when they discovered what appears to be intentional deception, reported it.
I would only hope that the biggest lesson learned here is to question images delivered by a state-controlled news agency.