New York/Boston – Rundowns on at least 29 resources that help verify social media posts are available at two sites: Verification Junkie and Journalist’s Resource. The latter, an adapted version of VJ information, is presented in totally different narrative format.
VJ founder Josh Stearns offers this explanation for launching his service: “I am a verification junkie. After spending two years tracking journalist arrests and press suppression at protests around the United States entirely on line, I became obsessed with how we can better verify and fact check social media during breaking news.
“Verification Junkie is a growing directory of apps, tools, sites and strategies for verifying, fact-checking and assessing the validity of social media and user generated content. This is a work in progress.”
Journalist’s Resource is an offshoot of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy sponsored by Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University. Its motivation for being was a reaction to a Twitter Age “that allows people to pass on rumors without having to perform even the most basic fact-checking – the equivalent of a whisper over lunch. Working journalists don’t have such luxuries, however, even with the continuous deadlines of a much larger and more competitive media landscape.”
JR observes that the issue “has become even knottier in the era of collaborative journalism, when nonprofessional reporting and images can be included in mainstream coverage. The information can be crucial – but it also can be wrong.”
Image manipulation identified
VJ and JR sites respond to the growing need to detect flawed images via an array of verification choices. For example, VJ describes Tin Eye as “a reverse image search engine. You can submit an image to Tin Eye to find out where it came from, how it is being used, if modified versions exist, or to find higher resolution versions.”
The FourMatch tool, “is an extension for Adobe Photoshop that instantly analyzes an open JPEG image to determine whether it is an untouched original from a digital camera.” Google Images allows you to “upload an image and Google will show you any images that resemble it. It is a quick way to easily track down original source images, or spot modifications and edits to an image.”
The JR site – which reviews 30 verification options — occasionally takes a different route to resource listing via its “Research, case studies” section. For instance, the following narrative explained the “Automatically Identify Fake Images on Twitter” tool:
“In a 2013 paper from the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, IBM Research Labs and the University of Maryland, the researchers found it was possible to identify tweets containing fake Hurricane Sandy images with up to 97% accuracy. The paper provides interesting data about the way fake images spread during Sandy, and explores how one day we may be able to flag tweets as potentially containing false information.”
JR’s adapted version also uses a categorized format to present information including fact-checking sites, fact-correction tools, image tools, and reporting tools.
Editor’s note: Verification Junkie and Journalist’s Resource are among the dozens of tools listed in the B2B Fact-Checking Guide being assembled by the Amerioan Society of Business Publications Ethics Committee.
VJ founder responds to ENU queries
ENU asked VJ founder Josh for more input about his site including future plans:
ENU: How many sites does VJ currently describe?
Stearns: There are currently 29 posts on the site but a few of the posts cover multiple tools in one. And a few of the links are resources that include much longer lists of tools and resources. You can also view a summary of all the posts. The three most recent posts are the ones at the top of the page. But I’ll be adding at least one or two more shortly.
ENU: What types of sites do you think are needed?
Stearns: VerificationJunkie.com is a useful, quick inventory of tools with some limited explanation about how to use them. However, what I think would serve as a very good complement to this list is more case studies that describe actual verification workflows for people. The Storyful post shown here is a good example of a workflow. The new Verification Handbook also does a good job of providing more examples of not just the tools available but also how to implement them in your newsroom.
ENU: Which VJ sites get the most hits?
Stearns: I don’t check the outbound statistics regularly to know where most people are clicking off to, but if you scroll over the posts at the Archives site you can see how many “notes” each post has gotten which is one way to approximate the popularity or interest in various sites/tools.
ENU: One of the sites listed – MediaBugs – no longer provides the service described. What’s happening there?
Last time I talked to the guys at MediaBugs they suggested that while they were not running the site actively anymore they were leaving it running for the community to use as a platform so I decided to leave it up there. I also think that it is valuable to document past efforts in this space so people can learn from what has been tried before. This is still a very dynamic sector and people are still developing new tools and processes. As such, having a bit of history also is of use.