Deliberately posting false or inaccurate information

What’s to be done about users giving false or inaccurate localities for for observations? Surely doing this should be disallowed as it is a form if fraud.


Mark the location as not accurate in the DQA section at the bottom of the page. If it seems to be persistent, the only way to fix it is to reach out to the user and ask them to stop (and probably also why in the first place, they may have a reason).


Maybe trying to protect plants from poaching?
But then, the location should be obscured.

Meanwhile the DQA pushes it to Casual.

PS probably not your case, but people come home, upload to iNat - and the default is their home address, when the pictures are clearly taken on the beach, or up the mountain.


Since there is an expectation that iNat users are submitting “true” information (although it may be obscured), if someone is repeatedly posting unreasonable localities I could imagine it eventually being a suspendable offense, a la

Intentionally adding false IDs or DQA votes. We expect you to submit information that you believe is an accurate assessment of the evidence provided, and not intentionally false. It’s ok to make an incorrect identification or accidentally add an incorrect date or something, but it’s not ok to intentionally add an incorrect identification or add an intentionally false vote to the Data Quality Assessment.

I’d say ask them, use the DQA votes if warranted, and then eventually you could report to the iNat staff if necessary.


one of the primary etiquette rules on iNat is to assume people have good intentions. many new users won’t even know their location data is incorrect, or if they did it on purpose it’s probably a misunderstanding.
if it’s a troll, you’ll know pretty fast once you directly interact with them – then it should be flagged for review by a curator.


I have uploaded pictures before with incorrect locations unintentionally (such as elephants in Washington DC) because they were old photos and I didn’t realize my location was off because I was/am used to my phone GPS.

In these cases it is always good to politely comment on the picture and ask if this is what the user had intended for location.


How inaccurate are we talking about? I will sometimes adjust the locality of rare plants (even when obscured) to the next ridge or hill so that even someone with behind the scenes access can’t get the precise location. If you mean a different bioregion or continent, that’s a different matter.


I have occasionally seen observations in countries with oppressive regimes where the user has openly stated that the location is inaccurate. Presumably they don’t trust that the authorities cannot hack out the true location if obscured/private and use it against them. I’m not sure how to handle that, but I don’t know their circumstances or fears and I wouldn’t want them sanctioned. I guess it still needs to be DQA’d, but they get their ID and we appreciate that they do what they feel they can.


I have in the past uploaded observations that were a block away from the true location (as they are private residences), before I knew about the obscure option. I’ll have some observations to fix.


If your accuracy radius is large enough that it also includes the true location a block away there’s no issue. I do that sometimes too for my house so that it’s more accurate than an obscured observation but without doxxing myself.


I think intentionally uploading IDs that meaningfully misrepresent the location after being warned is misuse of the site that should be flagged. However it is important not to assume wrongdoing, and false locations are usually not wrongdoing, and almost never can be standalone evidence of wrongdoing

there are glitches in software that can make IDs wrong, people upload pics taken on vacation at home and their house gets automatically set as the location, ect, so just nicely point out the error if you see this, the person may wall want to know that something went wrong when they posted the location

Also honest vagueness as kevinfaccenda’s comment refers to is fine, as long as the location is included in the accuracy radius, and you can even set geoprivacy to open and use an accuracy radius that is larger than the obscuring gridbox would be, if you want greater obscurity, I have a perfectly valid obs with a 218 km accuracy radius becasue I don’t remember which rest stop it was at on a road trip, the same thing could be done for obscurity purposes (but at some point the radius becomes so large as to make the obs casual I think)

the 200 km obs

@kevinfaccenda If you put a bunch of obs in different places that all have your house in the radius ring, it is easy to find your house where the radii all overlap, like a venn diagram. for locations with multiple observations it is more effective to either just obscure the obs or put the centerpoints of all the obs closer to each other than they are to the house


What?? No elephants in DC?? Probably can’t afford the rent.

I just posted Lady Slippers in Maine. They are found ALL over the state, down the east coast, and halfway to the west coast. I don’t feel that being real specific would help anybody. Except poachers. I set my Accuracy to 5,000 meters (say 3 miles), which is a lot of woods to search through. Mostly to show an observation between upper Blue Hill and busy Bar Harbor.


This is so important. In my experience most of the time it’s an honest mistake or someone that doesn’t know or trust obscuration. The times it’s been malicious or deceiving has been from students, unfortunately, for assignments. :(


For obs in my own garden I made a pinned location. For my suburb. Centred on the library. Interesting to see that none of the random dots has landed … here … yet. Curious about the blooming bulb in the sea - it wasn’t me put it there! - but that plant is Vulnerable and auto-Obscured by iNat. @kevinfaccenda


When I go on a long walk, say 30-40km in the mountains, I can’t remember exactly where I made the observation, and sometimes I can’t even know my location at the time, given that I use paper maps and not GPS, and all I know is that the observation is made anywhere between these two way-points on the map, 5-10km apart. I can estimate my location based on the photo’s timestamp, but this will necessarily be a very rough estimate. So eventually when I get back home a few days later to submit the observations, the radius will be quite large. I don’t think an inaccuracy of 5-10km would not make an observation invalid or useless.


I have a question sorta related and sort of not regarding this;

When taking photos anything from long distances, lets use birds for an example, what should you put as the location? Where you were or where the birds were?


The observation is for and of the birds, so it is the bird’s location that applies.


being specific IS helpful, for what it is worth, even (especially?) for common species. This is indeed a very common species, and a specific location certainly isn’t going to do any harm given anyone can find dozens if not hundreds of these if they know the habitat (and they die if transplanted, so poachers will kill the plant but gain nothing).

I think it’s fine to post a vague location if you want, so long as the observation was within the circle, but please don’t say the exact location isn’t valuable because it absolutely is.


Right, I don’t know why it has taken me so long to think about that haha! At least my locations are correct then.

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i feel like if you’re obscuring locations but then providing them to anyone who seems to not be a poacher or has academic credentials, you’re actually more likely to give data to poachers while denying it to anyone else who has use of the data for non destructive reasons. I’ll leave it at that because i don’t want to deflect the thread but… poachers who are good at it are going to be very good at coming off as not poachers. That’s kinda how it works.

That being said if the observation is within the uncertainty circle, the data isn’t false or inaccurate at all. I wish the site had a bttre way of filtering those observations out, but i don’t think iNat is going to be adding much in the way of new features like that, they haven’t for years.