Since I began covering journalist arrests and press suppression in real-time via social media I have developed a healthy obsession with verification. As the tools we use to report online continue to shift, we need verification to keep up. A great example of this is how Instagram filters or Vine jump-clips might hinder efforts to verify images and video from breaking news. Below is my directory of links and resources for verifying social media content – it is a work in progress.
Update: In early 2014 the European Journalism Center released the Verification Handbook which pulls together many of the lessons from the links below. I highly recommend it as a starting place for anyone interested in these issues.
I have been collecting these links for awhile, but a recent study profiled over at Poynter inspired me to post my list here. The study showed little consistency in how journalists approach assessing the accuracy of social media content. The links below are presented in no particular order, but are organized into three categories: How-To Guides, Case-Studies, Discussions and Studies. A note on scope: The resources below are specifically and purposefully limited to verifying social media and user generated content. General reporting accuracy is not covered in depth here.
It’s a big web out there, so if you know of resources I have missed, please leave them in the comments section and I’ll continue to update this list.
How-To Guides: Blog posts, reports and papers outlining tips and techniques for social media verification.
- Patrick Meier: “How to Verify Social Media Content: Some Tips and Tricks on Information Forensics.” (see also this Google Doc where people have expanded on Meier’s blog post with additional tips and discussion)
- Steve Buttry: “How to verify information from tweets: Check it out” a great set of tips specific to Twitter verification and a rich list of links at the end.
- IJNET: “Storyful’s best practices for verifying social media content.” By Margaret Looney
- Craig Silverman. “B.S. Detection for Digital Content.” A slide deck from his presentation on this topic.
- Josh Stearns: “Trust and Verify: How I Curate My List of Journalist Arrests” Specifically focuses on verification of social content during breaking news.
- IJNET: “A journalist’s guide to verifying images.” By Jennifer Dorroh
- WITNESS: Verifying Citizen Videos and More. Good video tutorials on social media verification.
- Mandy Jenkins: “Accuracy and accountability checklist for social media.” A handy stripped-down checklist. Post it by your computer.
- CJR: “Best Practices for Social Media Verification: Some tips and thoughts from the experts.” By Craig Silverman. A good round up of advice from others.
- Storyful: “The Human Algorithm.” By Mark Little. Especially good on verifying video content.
- Journalism.co.uk: “How to verify content from social media.” by Rachel McAthy
- PBS MediaShift. “How to Verify User-Generated Video in a War Zone.” by Jenny Hauser.
- Nieman Reports. “Finding Wisdom in the Crowd.” by Mark Little (good checklist for verifying video and photos)
- Slate. A journalist’s guide to tweeting during a crisis. Good thoughts by Jeremy Stahl.
- OJR. ‘Think before you act’ and more rules for journalists on Twitter. by Steve Fox.
Case-Studies: Articles about verification projects or processes at other newsrooms and organizations.
- Columbia Journalism Review on Storyful: “Unknown Quantities: How social network verification can show us what we don’t know.” by Craig Silverman.
- GigaOm on the BBC’s verification desk: “Future of Media: Curation, Verification and News as a Process.” by Mathew Ingram
- Storyful. “Journalism, social media & verification.” A Google Hangout.
- Patrick Meier on five case studies: “Information Forensics: Five Case Studies on How to Verify Crowdsourced Information from Social Media.” An expanded 20 page paper with case studies and tips.
- Josh Stearns: “Lessons From the Fake New York Times Wikileaks Op-ed” a Storify of tips and links on how to spot fake websites and more.
- The Atlantic: “Sorting the Real Sandy Photos From the Fakes.” By Alexis Madrigal and team.
- Andy Carvin: “Israeli weapons In Libya? How @acarvin and his Twitter followers debunked sloppy journalism.” A Storify documenting Andy’s process.
- BreakingNews.com: “A look at how we confirm stories in real time.” by Cory Bergman.
- BreakingNews.com: “How We Balance Speed with Rumor Control” by Cory Bergman.
- Poynter. “How CNN’s iReport verifies its citizen content.” By Craig Silverman.
- Poynter. “Editor Fergus Bell explains how AP verifies user-generated content from Sandy to Syria.” By Craig Silverman.
- Poynter: “How should journalists handle incorrect tweets?” by Mallary Tenore a review of a livechat held after the Tucson shooting.
- CJR: “Meet Andy Carvin, verification machine.” By Craig Silverman.
Discussions and Studies: Good debates about verification and studies that explore key aspects of this work.
- “Verification As A Strategic Ritual: How journalists retrospectively describe processes for ensuring accuracy.” By Ivor Shapiro, Colette Brin, Isabelle Bédard-Brûlé and Kasia Mychajlowycz (behind a paywal).
- IsTwitterWrong – A Tumblr detailing a long litany of fact-checks and debunking of images and “news” that gained traction on the site.
- “How many fake Sandy pictures were really shared on social media?” a data driven look at the spread of fakes by Jean Burgess, Farida Vis and Axel Bruns in the Guardian.
- Poynter: “In real-time journalism, declaring what you won’t report can be just as important as what you will.” By Craig Silverman
- GigaOm: “It’s not Twitter — this is just the way the news works now.” By Matthew Ingram. On the misinformation that flowed out of Sandy Hook during and after the shooting.
- Dan Gillmor’s entire book Mediactive discusses this issue, but his chapter on “Principles of Trustworthy Media Creation” is particularly good.
- NiemanLab: “Truth-o-Meter, 2G: Andrew Lih wants to wikify fact-checking” By Megan Garber
- CJR: “The Challenge of Verifying Crowdsourced Information: A better way to sift through a river of data” by Craig Silverman.