Are there only 2 types of people in this world? — An OSINT analysis

(Click here to watch and listen to the video version of this blog entry)

Today as I was scrolling through my LinkedIn’s home feed I came across this image that had been liked by someone from my network.

It depicts two female tennis players, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, each picture showing one holding an award while the other watches in the background. The caption “There are 2 types of people in this world” implies that some people will be happy with your success whilst others will be jealous/upset/resentful.

The image has been “reacted” by over 2000 users and has been posted to a LinkedIn page followed by almost 287k people.

If you have been on the internet for the past 15 years this sort of image compilation should not be anything new to you; a carefully selected image(s) with a short “insightful” quote to go along.
I would have no problems with it apart from the fact that it is using real people to pass some sort of moral lesson and in the process labelling one of the tennis players the “good” one and the other the “bad” one.

The issue with using photos to prove any information is that, not only it will select an instant in time to immortalise that could or not be deceitful, but they can also be edited with easily accessible software.

The last 15 years have seen a high rise of disinformation, unreliable information and plain propaganda being shared online in exchange for likes, follows and quick reactions. This growing issue was exacerbated in the last couple of years with an out of control pandemic and a growing population more willing to believe in this type of image rather than the scientific community.

So how do we stop this from happening?
We educate others and ourselves on how to search for factual information, be suspicious of images with no sources or backstory and stop sharing misinformation.

So let’s look at this image of Serena Williams and Maria Sharopova to find out exactly what happened before they became a black and white dichotomy.

After saving the image from LinkedIn I did a quick image reverse search using Yandex, Bing, Google and TinEye. The first three were useful to find the “original” coloured images but I was mostly interested in using TinEye due to a very useful option they have.

You can select to sort the results by older therefore showing you the first time the image was found online. According to TinEye this image with the two photographs on top of each was first shared on imgur on the 3rd of February, 2016.

And here is the image on imgur.

So now let’s try to figure out a bit more about the images in question. I will be focusing on the bottom picture as the top one seems to be portraying both players in a good light. For that I can crop the bottom image and do a reverse search on TinEye again to track down its origin.

We quickly find out that the image of Serena Williams with a prize was first published online on the 31st January 2015, over a year before it became some sort of low effort meme.

So now that we know around what time this photograph was taken we can use a google search and select tools →time →custom range.

Then we can choose to give us only results posted in 2015.
We can spot on the results shown below, in the videos section, some relevant information. On the 31st January 2015 there was a tennis final between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. We have already previously seen this date on a TinEye result indicating it as the oldest posted time of the photo of a happy Serena and not so happy Maria.

So if we narrow the date even more to only show results from January we find an article that gives a bit more context to the image.

Now that we know it was the final of the 2015 Australian Open we can use that to find some more media from the event. A quick google images search with the keywords “serena williams vs maria sharapova australian open 2015” gives the following results.

There’s already a good mix of photos of the players; happy faces, bored faces, tired faces. I chose to click on the last of this list as it links to an article on forbes.com, a very reliable and credible magazine.

On the website we can see the photo with the following caption: “Williams and Sharapova shake hands after their latest match in the women’s singles final at the 2015 Australian Open.” If we compare their outfits and hairstyle with the photo from the meme shared on LinkedIn we can see that they match. This information plus the date of when the image had first been shared confirm that it is likely that they took place at the same event.

So at this point we can conclude that the image above was carefully chosen to depict Maria Sharapova in a bad light as we can see her on the left image congratulating Serena Williams after her win with a smile.

We could try to guess why Sharapova is not smiling in the first picture. Was she angry or sad for not winning? Was she worried about the looming clouds and the clothes she left to dry in the balcony? Was she craving some vegemite toast and just wanted Williams to hurry up with her speech? We’ll never know so maybe we should stop making assumptions.

So to conclude…
Yes, there are two types of people in this world, the ones that believe in any non sense shared on social media and the ones that don’t.

I’m joking, humans are complex creatures and the world is not black and white. Stay safe out there.

Thank you for reading,
~Sofia.

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