The Checklist: Champagne Austerity Edition

UK election debunk, psychology of rumors, new Twitter investigation tool, and more


The Checklist is a weekly newsletter of links, case studies and research around verification and user-generated content, brought to you by the Checkdesk team. Sign up to have your own free copy delivered direct to your inbox every Tuesday.

1. Eyewitness Media: more must be done to raise awareness around the rights of and responsibilities towards eyewitnesses

New research hot of the presses from our friends at Eyewitness Media Hub — this is well worth reading through in detail, and contains not only enlightening research findings but also important recommendations around best practices when using eyewitness and user-generated media in reporting.

This research clearly shows that it’s not just broadcasters who are relying on eyewitness media. Online editions of newspapers are also adapting to the demands of a world where eyewitnesses are frequently using smartphones and social media to provide the first pictures from the scene during breaking news events. The research outlined in this report is intended to provide a detailed, systematic overview of major online newspapers’ use of eyewitness media. We set out to understand existing practices and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for news organisations as well as the eyewitnesses operating in this space.

2. The first defense against needless fear is to closely examine the scary claim.

A good news organization serves as an antidote to exploitative fiction. When we avoid printing falsehoods, though, some readers see our prudence as a sign of bias. It’s such a common problem that I’d like to ask a serious question: Should we start a regular report on “News that ain’t so”? A debunking of fakery?

3. Rumor Has It: The Psychology Of Why We Still Believe In Debunked Myths

His latest study, “Rumors, Truths, and Reality: A Study of Political Misinformation,” set to be published in the British Journal of Political Science, has come to some rather unconventional conclusions. Namely that repeating a myth, even if in the course of debunking it, can only reinforce our belief in it. And that the best way to steer people towards rejecting a politically motivated myth is by recruiting a credible but idealogically opposed source to do it for you.

4. Surveillance planes spotted in the sky for days after West Baltimore rioting

The plane appeared to be a small Cessna, but little else was clear. The sun had already set, making traditional visual surveillance difficult. So, perplexed, Shayne tweeted: “Anyone know who has been flying the light plane in circles above the city for the last few nights?” That was 9:14 p.m. Seven minutes later came a startling reply. One of Shayne’s nearly 600 followers tweeted back a screen shot of the Cessna 182T’s exact flight path and also the registered owner of the plane: NG Research, based in Bristow, Va. “The Internet,” Shayne, 39, told his wife, “is an amazing thing.”

5. Africa Check key to identifying false claims during Ebola crisis, elections

“If you look back, there were a shocking number of reports put out by media in Africa and outside it that showed staggering degrees of ignorance,” Africa Check Executive Director Peter Cunliffe-Jones said. “From the causes and patterns of the disease to, and this one much more in the case of media outside Africa obviously, the basic geography of a continent. If there was one flaw, above all, it was people reporting a story they clearly did not understand.”

6. Tool of the Week: Who Tweeted It First

Great new tool that helps you find the original source of a link or claim. We’d love to hear about anyone using this in verification-related work — let us know how it goes!

7. Debunk of the Week: Post-election celebrations at 11 Downing Street?

This photo was shared on Facebook and Twitter following the Conservative victory in the UK’s general election, prompting cries of hypocrisy over public spending cuts championed by the Conservative government.

As noted in the comment thread here (crowdsourced debunking in action!) the photo is actually from 2004, when Labour were in power in the UK.


Credits: 1. Eyewitness Media Hub 2. Cleveland.com 3. Medical Daily 4. Washington Post 5. IJNET h/t @Thalloula 6. Ctrl-Q 7. The Interwebs