07 February 2018

Reddit Travel Rants, No. 11: Misrepresenting Pictures

The other day, I saw a picture, posted on the travel subreddit, which was labeled by the poster as a fruit vendor in the "bordertown" of Hoa-An [sic], Myanmar. The poster claimed that he had plenty of other photos from Myanmar, but this was his favorite. There was a problem though. First of all, there was no town called Hoa-An in Myanmar. There is however a town called Hpa-An. That said, Hpa-An is nowhere near a border, it is more than 150 kilometers away from the closest border, which is to Thailand. And finally, the fruit vendor depicted in the photo didn't look Burmese at all. So I did a reverse picture search, and sure enough, I found some dirt.

It turns out that this picture was taken originally in Aleppo, Syria. It depicted a Syrian fruit vendor standing in front of a ruined building, while guarding his wagon of fruit. So of course, armed with this information, I reported the poster, and the post was eventually taken down.

This makes me think, why would people claim that they have taken pictures like these? Reddit is more or less an anonymous forum, so I started wondering what the purpose of that post was. The only thing I could think of is that the poster wanted admiration from the anonymous audience, whereby he wanted the audience to think that he's cool to have been in Myanmar, that he's not like the other stereotypical tourists who take only pretty pictures, since the photo actually depicted something that wasn't aesthetically pleasing. But it is bizarre that someone would steal someone else's photo and pretend that it was his own, just to get some self-gratification in an anonymous venue like Reddit.

With other plagiarism cases, typically people want to take credit using their real name. You know, they write a dissertation using their real name but with stolen ideas. But with Reddit, real names and identities aren't in play. Everyone has a pseudonym, which one can erase if one has gotten sick of it. Nevertheless, some people like this user thought that he would want credit for his pseudonymous persona. And in order to accomplish that, he posts a picture that isn't his own.


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