There’s a certain class of Twitter users who post nothing but pictures, calling themselves names like “HistoryPics”, “EarthPix”, “SpacePorn”, and such. They’ve been popping up a lot lately, posting photos (and Photoshops), minimally captioned and rarely attributed, duplicating each other to extend coverage, or spawning copycats. The pics tend to go viral, then the accounts collect thousands and millions of retweets and followers, and they leverage the traffic to sell spammy promo tweets and affiliate ad links.

This annoyed me, so I started @PicPedant on a lark. Late on a Friday afternoon, PicPedant replied to pic accounts with cursory corrections, attributions, and links to original photographers and artists. It took little more than simple reverse image searches and a little extra hunting, harking back to my days debunking Filipino urban legends with my old site “Pula.ph.”

Two days later PicPedant had over a thousand followers. Now, a week later, it’s at two thousand and still growing, with messages of encouragement and gratitude from journalists, photographers, developers, designers, educators, and even people who work at Twitter. It’s nowhere near the hundreds of thousands that the other picspam accounts have, but does reflect a vein of passion on the internet for deeper engagement with scientific and historical imagery than the insipid, decontextualized captions churned out by the picspammers.

ExposedDC interviewed me about it, and Tom Phillips of Buzzfeed has highlighted some good debunks. (Tom was doing similar debunk articles before me, and also ran pedantry hub Is Twitter Wrong?, which in hindsight was a definite influence.)

Now I can’t stop. What have I gotten myself into?