Was that “Rape Melania” sign fake or Photoshopped? Experts weigh in

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#RapeMelania trended on Twitter over the weekend after a photo of a sign scribbled with the same statement made its rounds on the internet. 

The sign in question — which is absolutely not OK — was reportedly held up during an anti-Donald Trump protest in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, and photos of the sign went viral. 

Some questioned if the sign was real. 

The photos of the sign have thousands of retweets at the time of writing. But viral images aren't always authentic — as was the case with the fried chicken Oreos, a 1980s ad for a "free U2 tape with every cassette player" and a photo of Paris Hilton in a shirt that read "Stop being poor." All were fake. As for the "Rape Melania" sign, according to a photo editing expert, it's likely the real deal. 

"The image you sent displays a lot of JPG artifacting, of course, but from what I can see, it displays no sign of having been put in after the fact," adjunct assistant professor at Pratt Institute Max Shuppert said in an email upon investigating the image at 800% enlargement. "The geometry of the slightly off-axis nature of the placard appears to agree with the type (see how the 'M' in Melania displays a cylindrical curve to its outside edges that flattens out naturally with the curve of the sign)." 

Shuppert can't definitively say the image is genuine, but believes it is unlikely that it's been edited. He added that unless someone had advanced retouching capabilities, "it doesn't appear to have been altered."

On the other hand, Joshua Field, an assistant professor at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, said in an email that he believes the "Rape Melania" protest signs were faked.

Field said that a comparison of the three images that were posted online shows that, while they were taken from different angles, the sign and text appear at "exactly the same angle."

"The odds of the angle of the sign being the same in the only three pictures in existence are virtually impossible," Field said. He sent Mic a graphic he created that shows all three of the protest sign images in composite, color coding the Trump Hotel sign crossbeam as a reference point for the angle in each.

A comparison of the three imagesSource: Joshua Field
A comparison of the three images  Joshua Field

The sign and subsequent trending hashtag #RapeMelania drew criticism — rightfully so — for advocating the exact rape culture Trump encourages that many protesters were marching against. 

November 15, 2:57 p.m.: This story has been updated.