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Posted: July 01, 2020

Is a photoshopped photo always misinformation?

Why an altered photo of Green Party leader Elizabeth May's mug became news

Key Concepts:

 Manipulated content

Last week, Green Party leader Elizabeth May faced media questions about a cup swap in a photo on the Green Party website.


A photo posted of her holding a disposable (but compostable) cup was replaced with the same image, altered in Photoshop. In the new version, the cup is reusable plastic, sports the Green Party logo, and contains a reusable straw.


Numerous news outlets in Canada and abroad reported on the story, including the National Post.


Some pointed out a contradiction in having a party devoted to environmental issues artificially adding a reusable cup to its leader’s hand.


Elizabeth May expressed surprise that the image had been altered, and said the following in a statement:

“My personal daily practice is to avoid single use plastic items 100% of the time. I never drink from plastic water bottles. I always carry my own reusable coffee cup. I carry my own bamboo utensils. I walk the talk every day. I hope that despite this misstep by well-meaning party staff (who hoped to brand the image with our logo), people can believe that in the original photo there is nothing I would have hidden.”

  1. Share the article “Elizabeth May was holding a single-use cup before photo was altered to a reusable one,” that ran in the National Post on Sept. 24 with students.
  2. Optional: Review the animated video CIVIX Explains: Information Pollution.
  3. Have a class discussion of the issues raised by this event. Guiding questions:
  • Why do you think this story is newsworthy?
  • How might this photo be considered an example of misinformation?
  • What are the reasons people might be upset about this photo being altered?
  • Do you think it is ethical to change a photo this way? Why or why not?

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