The Filter Effect: People Distrust Websites Because of Manipulated Photos

Harris Poll Data from TRUEPIC Offers Unfiltered Look at Americans' Photo Editing Habits & Perceptions; Reveals 93% of Americans Suspect Online Photos Have Been Edited

SAN DIEGO, CA--(Marketwired - May 18, 2017) - Photos fuel our news feeds and drive many leading industries (including home rentals, car sales, insurance, online dating, beauty sales, and more) but, in today's digital world, images and videos can no longer be trusted or assumed to be accurate or authentic. With photo sharing at an all-time high, and filter/editing apps predominately populating charts, TRUEPIC, the mobile app for businesses and consumers to verify an image's authenticity, today released new data conducted online by Harris Poll around Americans' habits and perceptions of edited images.

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of TRUEPIC in March 2017 among over 2,000 U.S. adults 18+.

According to the survey, nearly two-thirds of Americans who have shared a photo online (64%) admit to having edited one prior to posting it online, yet the data shows they distrust sites whose users do the same. Nearly 80% of Americans suspect users of different sites (e.g., social media, dating sites, fitness sites) post altered images and say they distrust a website specifically because of the edited photos. The survey also details how people view image manipulation when it comes to businesses, others on social media, and themselves.

"People are both overwhelmingly editing photos prior to sharing online, and also highly suspect of photos that are shared by others, which could cause distrust between consumers and the online businesses they frequent," said Jeff McGregor, CEO of TRUEPIC. "As the world's first digital notary for photos, we aim to bring trust and credibility back to digital images."

In Photos We Distrust

When people or things are misrepresented online, it can affect a business' bottom line. According to one industry's estimates, property/casualty insurance fraud amounts to about $32 billion a year alone. TRUEPIC's survey data digs into details on these "digital darkroom delinquencies":

  • Among the 93% of Americans who suspect users have posted edited photos on websites, nearly 3 in 5 (58%) say they distrust dating sites because of edited photos.
    • After dating sites, Americans distrust fitness/weight loss/nutrition (48%), social media (46%), classifieds (22%), vacation rental (21%), real estate/home sale (19%), and family care (15%) sites because of manipulated images.
  • More than 4 in 5 Americans (81%), though perhaps not surprisingly, suspect that users have posted edited photos on social media sites.
    • Other sites Americans suspect users post edited photos to are: dating (77%), fitness/weight loss/nutrition (67%), vacation rental (47%), real estate/home sale (42%), classifieds (41%), and family care sites (32%).
  • Forgive and forget: Millennials are more trusting of sites with edited photos than their older peers; for example:
    • Dating sites: 65% of those ages 45+ distrust dating sites due to edited photos; drops to 54% ages 35-44 and 48% ages 18-34.
    • Classifieds: 25% of those ages 45+ distrust dating sites due to edited photos; drops to 22% ages 35-44 and 14% ages 18-34.

A Picture's Worth a Thousand… Likes?

Among the 82% of Americans who have shared a photo online, nearly two-thirds (64%) admit to editing a photo prior to posting. But the most common reason cited seems to forego ego -- 46% of Americans who have shared a photo online say they made edits to enhance the quality of the photograph overall.

  • Picture perfect: 25% admit to eliminating/modifying problem areas (blemish, dark circles, red eye) as a reason for photo editing, while 15% say they've done so to feel better about themselves.
    • More than any other age group, 29% of Millennials say they edit photos to feel better about themselves (compared to only 9% of those ages 35+); parents of kids under 18 are more likely than those without children under 18 (24% v. 11%) to edit for this reason, but the percentages are equal among those that are married and those that are not (both 15%).
  • Photo opportunity for infidelity?: Married Americans are more than twice as likely to admit to manipulating images to make themselves appear younger than those who are not married (9% v. 4%).
  • It's not me, it's you: 15% say they manipulate photos to make others in the picture look better.

Snap Judgments

  • Seeing isn't believing: More than two-thirds of Americans (68%) believe the majority of the photos they see online have been edited. The Millennial mindset emerges once again with staggering results -- 84% think most photos they see online are edited, compared to 62% of those ages 35+.
  • Age before beauty: Over 2 in 5 Americans (44%) say that if they were on a dating site, they would rather someone lie about their age than use an edited photo on their dating profile. More men than women agree (49% v. 39%).
  • Best face forward: If someone shared a photo of them online, more than a third of Americans (39%) would prefer it was edited to make them look better.
  • Me, myself, and iPhone: Nearly half of Americans (46%) say they would be more likely to edit a photo of themselves than of something else (food, scenery, other people, etc.).

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of TRUEPIC from March 7-9, 2017 among 2,133 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Stephanie Cooley,


In a world where seeing is not always believing, TRUEPIC is the mobile app for businesses and consumers to verify an image's authenticity. TRUEPIC's patented technology acts as a notary for digital photos, driving confidence among consumers and businesses that a shared photo has not been altered in any way. Founded in La Jolla, CA, in 2016, TRUEPIC is led by serial entrepreneurs Craig Stack and Jeff McGregor and is backed by leading investors and advisors. More information can be found at

Contact Information: