Western Sahara, vicarious trauma and trawling the Russian internet
It’s been a couple of weeks since the last newsletter as I was off on annual leave, but that just means a bumper edition of stories and links for you this week.
Here’s what we’ve been up to since last time:
- Facebook and Twitter may be the mainstays of social media in much of the world, but that is not the case in Russia and parts of Eastern Europe. Bellingcat’s Aric Toler wrote an introductory piece for anyone looking to get to grips with the Russian-language internet: featuring Yandex Maps, Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki, search tips and more.
- Storyful’s Derek Bowler produced a short documentary on how he and his colleagues handle viewing graphic images at work, with valuable insight for anyone working in the field.
- In a cross post from our friends over at WITNESS Lab, Madeleine Bair explained the process of verifying videos from protests in Western Sahara.
- Craig Silverman has been hitting the hoax beat hard over at BuzzFeed, and his latest post looks at how fake news sites have evolved to trick more and more people, making a tidy packet of cash in the process.
- We also updated our list of vital browser plugins for newsgathering and verification to include seven key tools. Worth checking out for the update or for the whole thing if you missed it first time around.
What else was there?
The Engine Room published a new guide to help human rights workers integrate data into their research with some valuable tips for journalists; StopFake published a report on the possibilities of making media literacy a populist pursuit; The New York Times published a new investigation in thecanon of stories on how Russia is spreading misinformation among its political rivals; Iraqi investigators in Berlin found new evidence to support the claim Daesh have destroyed the historic Gate of Nineveh; Craig Silverman exposed the hashtag trolls and racists use to accuse people of looting; and for like-minded pedants out there, you can now join a Facebook group exposing fake or staged wildlife photography.
A new study has shown that “the more partisan your online media diet, the less likely you are to believe fact-checkers”, and taken in conjunction with a sprawling NYT Magazine piece on “Facebook’s (totally insane, unintentionally gigantic, hyperpartisan) political-media machine”, the disconnect between beliefs and reality is becoming increasingly troubling.
Facebook previously has made slow progress in its efforts to battle hoax stories on its network but now it has unwittingly opened the sluice gates on fake news by firing the human editors on its Trending section. Within days, a fake story about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly featured in the “Trending” box on users’ newsfeed. There have likely been others, leading the Guardian to ring the bell on Facebook’s fight against fake news, suggesting a little more human involvement would “keep algorithmic wildfire at bay”.
As a central source of information for millions of people all over the world, here’s hoping the biggest social network in town is just taking a breather.
Until next week, all the best and stay true,