Checkdesk Checklist #3

Ethics with user-generated content, facts as weapons, an update to the Verification Handbook, and more

One of the most exciting and interesting things about working on verification of user-generated content (UGC) is the emergent nature of the field. Each week, there are great people working on important new projects and enlightening new case studies.

Keeping on top of everything that’s going on is no small task, and so, inspired by the brilliant newsletters put out by Alexis Madrigal, Craig Silverman, and the American Press Institute, we created the Checkdesk Checklist: a short weekly newsletter with one great verification-related link for each day of the week.

You can sign up for the newsletter in time to receive the fourth edition right here, and you’ll also find our back catalogue, which includes some super archive material and some surprising debunks of the week.

Feedback and content tips are always welcome. Feel free to ping me at @tom_el_rumi or tom(at)meedan.com!

1. Verification Handbook #2: Investigative Reporting

Super new resource from the creators of the original Verification Handbook, updated with new case studies and guides from a great group of experts, including Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins: During the later stages of the Libyan civil war in 2011, rebel groups pushed out from the Nafusa Mountain region and began to capture towns. There were many contradictory reports of the capture of towns along the base of the mountain range. One such claim was made about the small town of Tiji, just north of the mountains. A video was posted online that showed a tank driving through what was claimed to be the center of the town. […] My interest was in understanding the situation on the ground, beyond what was being reported in the press. There were constant claims and counterclaims about what was happening on the ground. There was really only one question I was interested in answering: How do we know if a report is accurate?

2. Can newsrooms be ethical and competitive in using UGC?

“We start with forensic journalism,” he said, “it then goes to technology, and then collaboration.” Forensic journalism starts with asking ‘is it too good to be true’, a standard for a true cynics at the start of any story. Beyond that, questions should be based around “elements that we need to corroborate or to clarify”, Little said, many of which are covered extensively in The Verification Handbook.

3. Using Facts as Weapons

Bare facts can be one of the most powerful weapons against repressive political regimes. In states like China, Iran or Egypt, state-controlled media outlets dominate the public discourse. In this environment, publishing raw information is itself a very disruptive act. And the growth of digital media has given this kind of info-journalism an effective stage.

4. We know Lebanese Hezbollah is fighting in Syria and Iraq, but is it also involved in Yemen?

But recently there has been accusations mainly by Saudi Arabia that the party headed by Hassan Nasrallah is involved in Yemen alongside with the Houthis . Al Sharq Al Awsat newspaper also alleged that it had lost one of its fighters. In one of his latest appearances, Nasrallah had slammed “Decisive Storm’’ Saudi lead military operation in Yemen.

5. The Funders Behind the Fact Checkers

Fact-checking is hot these days, to the extent that the Poynter Institute convened the first-ever global conference of fact checkers last year, during which these truth-seeking souls voted to create a new international organization and set out to find funding for this effort. Still, the funding going to fact checking tends to be modest — despite all the new money coming into nonprofit journalism these days and the frequency with which American public life is submerged in a gutter of lies.

6. Has Google found the Loch Ness Monster?

“We were surprised by this sighting too,” said a Google spokesperson, when we pointed out a strange, lumpen object floating on the loch’s surface. “Is it a log, a bird or… the monster?!”

7. Debunk of the week: Surfers ride waves in Sydney Harbour after wild storm

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