Verification in Social Media Journalism

In class on Wednesday, I presented some tools and tips for verifying content taken from social media platforms. Additional tools can be found at Verification Junkie.

Twitter Verification

Twitter is one of the most popular sources of photos, video clips and updates in breaking news situations around the world. But journalists who use this content must take care to confirm that their findings are accurate and timely. Here are a couple of tools to help with Twitter verification:

  1. Topsy – Topsy houses all tweets sent since Twitter’s start in 2006. You can sort tweets by a specific time range, type of tweet (text, photo, video) and language. Twitter advanced search can also be used to search more recent tweets. Using these tools you can verify tweets you’re seeing by looking into what other people are tweeting.
  2. Is Twitter Wrong? – This is a Tumblr and Twitter account that debunks misinformation and hoaxes on Twitter. It can be helpful to check this site to make sure something you find isn’t a hoax or part of a larger case of misinformation.

Photo Verification

News outlets often post or broadcast photos taken from Twitter, especially in cases of large weather events or breaking news incidents that no news agencies could cover. It is important to ensure these photos are the real thing. These tools might help:

  1. Tin Eye – Tine Eye is a website that allows you to upload a photo or provide the URL of a photo posted on the Internet. The site then shows you all of the other places that photo, and edited versions of it, can be found online. If someone claims to have an exclusive photo they took, you can easily run it through TinEye to see if they’re telling the truth.
  2. Google Images – Google Images functions the same way TinEye does, but it searches exclusively in Google Images archives to find the photo. Google Images was used to expose this hoax about a giant squid washing up on the shores of California.

Video Verification

Storyful (the self-proclaimed “first news agency of the social media age”) is a subscription service that helps news outlets use social media for news-gathering, reporting and storytelling. The site provides a list of tips for verifying social media video:

  • Engage with content sharer & try to identify original source.
  • If it’s in another language, translate every word for context. (context is also crucial to videos in your language, examine everything!)
  • Review uploader’s sharing history to determine reliability; when was their account created?
  • Use Google Maps to verify locations in video.
  • Consult other news sources to confirm events.
  • Examination of key features such as background landscape and weather to make sure it’s consistent with alleged location.
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