Multilingual team vital tool in verifying facts behind Miami mall alert

A security situation at a mall in Miami on August 19 highlighted the importance of a multilingual newsroom in discovering breaking news eyewitness content.

RTDD was alerted to reports of a commotion at the Dolphin Mall through monitoring of social media channels in several languages, including Spanish and English. Video posted to Twitter by a user in Spanish showed people emerging from the mall with their arms in the air.

Twitter/@MaryCotes

The uploader tweeted in Spanish and had their location set to Colombia, although her Twitter account showed images from the Miami mall. The uploader’s location on Facebook was also set as Colombia but described herself as from Miami.

A tweet from the uploader’s account said her sister was locked in a Victoria’s Secret store during the incident. RTDD verified that Victoria’s Secret had a branch at the Dolphin Mall using their store locator.

The user was contacted by RTDD in Spanish and was given permission to use her content.

Twitter/@MaryCotes

We engaged in conversation with the uploader in Spanish, and were provided with additional information on where the video was sourced.

The video and images were filmed by the uploader’s sister and brother-in-law, who provided it to her directly with permission to publish online, the uploader said.

Using Google Maps, we verified the location the video was filmed. Features seen in the video — including a distinct pattern on the exterior wall of the mall, palm trees and a sewer drain — prove the video was filmed at the mall from an adjacent parking lot.

Images tweeted by the uploader show the same location as well as a parking lot further to the right.

Google Maps helped us verify the images as being taken at the same location. Valet signs can be seen in both the Google Map image and the uploaders’ image.

Using SAM to monitor content coming from the mall, we sourced the below video, which showed people running through a mall in panic but with no audible gunshots, despite what one uploader said in the below tweet.

Twitter/@tupacaroni

We verified the video was filmed inside the mall, comparing the location of the Bloomingdale’s Outlet and the distinctive “Ramblas” writing on the wall against an image taken inside the mall.

The video has been scraped online several times, with the above uploader being the earliest-known poster of the footage. RTDD reached out to the user, who has their location set to Miami, but has yet to receive a response.

As the situation unfolded, a statement from police said that a thorough search concluded no gunshots could be identified as having been fired, with no gunman confirmed on the scene.

Twitter/@MiamiDadePD

Running simultaneous news searches across several languages enabled us to quickly spot a breaking news story and to react to a rapidly-unfolding and unclear situation.

In this instance, it was vitally important to consider Miami’s Spanish-speaking population. The language skills available to our newsroom allowed us to engage with the community sharing content and make sense of their images and video in real-time.

In spite of the false alarm in this particular story, the situation in Miami taught us a valuable lesson; don’t assume the language uploaders will use when sharing content from a particular location.

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