Image: Robert S. Donovan


  • Direct from Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites
  • Using free and paid tools
  • The ethics and crediting of eyewitness media

Ethics and crediting

I’m putting this first because it’s important and I don’t want it to be buried as an afterthought…

  • Introduce yourself
  • Enquire about their safety
  • Ask if they shot the footage themselves
  • Ask for permission to use the picture
  • Say how and where the image will be used
  • Ask if they would like to be credited
  • Ask how they would like to be credited

So how do you go about finding images and video from a specific location? Here’s a few ways to do it direct, and then some useful tools.

✳️ Twitter

If you know that something has happened in a specific area and you want to find non-geolocated tweets, you need to put yourself in the shoes of that person living that event.

  • People use very localized terms. They are much more likely to use the name of the street/landmark they are at, then the name of the town or city.
  • People tend to swear a lot when they witness dramatic scenes (so search for words like “fuck”, “shit” etc)
  • “Me” and “my” are two good words to add to a search if you want to find people directly affected by a situation, as this article by NYT’s Daniel Victor shows

✳️ Facebook Signal

More tools for Instagram

You can also search Instagram using a couple of great third-party tools.

✳️ Worldcam


✳️ YouTube

✳️ Periscope

✳️ Snapchat

Here are some great third-party tools for finding social media from a specific location


Wildfires in California in June 2015
A list of news ‘events’ flagged up on the free version of Banjo on 28 January 2016
Banjo shows what’s rending on Facebook in the US on 28 January 2016


A quick search round Times Square, New York

Ground Signal

✳️ More from the Social Media Reporter ✳️

  • How to organise your feeds
  • Locating video, images and sources from a specific location, and the ethics of using eyewitness material
  • Verification. How to spot fakes and scams
  • How to use social media to track people down and for research
  • How to find out what’s trending and dig to the bottom of trends
  • More resources



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Cordelia Hebblethwaite

Commissioning editor for @bbcideas — short films for curious minds. Via @BBCNewsnight, @JSKStanford, @BBCTrending and more. Wrote