Policy on photos and other media

I haven’t been able to find a stated policy regarding which photos - or sound recordings, etc. - are appropriate to submit with an observation. Must it be a photo (etc.) of the same individual(s) observed, taken by the observer, at the same time as the reported observation? For example, I saw an observation of a bird that was in a molt that was inconsistent with the date of the observation (in breeding plumage in mid-winter). The ID was correct to species level, but the appearance of the bird did not seem to match the date. So, unless the bird itself was out of sync with the season, the photo must have been taken at a different time of year, and probably of a different individual bird. If that is the case, is this considered acceptable on iNat? If not, can someone direct me to the pertinent guideline?

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Ask the person in a comment
If you are sure the date the incorrect, you can vote it as incorrect in the DQA
Give it a thumbs down in “Date is accurate”
(As an aside, if it’s an easy to ID bird that people are likely to ID quickly and easily, I’d check Google Lens to see if it was a stolen image. Some people do ‘test’ observations taking photos from the Internet, and some students do similar when trying to get enough observations for their class. If it is an image not theirs, then you can flag the image itself for copyright violation - if you search the forum there are directions how.)


Thanks for your response. And is there a stated policy or guideline that covers this? If not, then … no fault, no blame?

I think the relevant parts of the guidelines (https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/community+guidelines) are

Assume people mean well. Most problematic content on iNat (e.g. copyright violations, plagiarism, etc.) happens because new users don’t understand what iNat is all about. Usually they think observation photos should just show something like what they saw, as opposed to presenting direct evidence of what they saw. If you think a photo represents a copyright violation, please flag it as such, but please assume people have made an honest mistake unless you have evidence to the contrary.


Add accurate content and take community feedback into account.

If it was me and I saw something that suggested the date was wrong (or something else) I’d politely ask the user. I have photos of flowering plants that are flowering in November when they’re “supposed” to flower in August. The date’s aren’t wrong and quite possibly it’s a new species… currently being investigated. I don’t know if this applies to birds but… maybe? Edit: if the person doesn’t reply to my comments (and assuming it’s not a copyright violation) I just move on. I don’t know if that’s the best course of action, but there’s so much I don’t know (e.g. plants flowering at the wrong time of the year because maybe they’re a new species) that unless it’s really clear that something is wrong that I can deal with using the DQA then maybe it’s me or the literature that’s wrong and we all might discover something wonderful

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What Ox said from the guidelines, the reason DQA exists is so issues can be marked.
They can be voted against as well, say people disagree and the date is fine, then can vote thumbs up (its fine) and nullify your thumbs down. DQA downvote pushes things back to needs ID’d or casual, which is why I assume best intentions (as per guide) and ask first.

Usually my approach is a bit different as I often work in years of backlog, so I will give it the DQA vote and leave a comment a) asking politely and b) saying to please tag me when they reply (Type “@” then user name just like all other social media works) and I will happily adjust my DQA vote. I think there has been one occassion where my DQA vote was erronious and I happily fixed it of course, a few times people replied they didn’t know so thanks for telling them, and every other time it’s ignored.




Thank you! This is exactly what I was asking about.

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