Image: Jamie King, Unsplash


  • Verifying images
  • Verifying video
  • More resources

Fake accounts

Few people realise how widespread fake followers and so-called “bots” (“robot” accounts that are programmed to behave a certain way) are, and how easy and cheap they are to buy.

How to check if a Twitter account is real

The first thing to do is to look yourself carefully at the account.

Some free tools

There are also some tools that can give you a further indication, but this is not an exact science, and none are full-proof:

Verifying images

There are three indispensable tools for checking the origin of images — all are free.

  1. ✳️ Tin Eye
A quick search on TinEye of the image I’ve used in the ‘Welcome’ section of this guide shows it’s from the agency Gratisography
  • Where are they?
  • When did they get there?
  • What can they see (and what does their photo show)?
  • Why are they there?

A few other photo resources:

✳️ izitru This site analyzes images to test for their veracity, and then gives the image a “trust rating”

Verifying video

They are now undisputedly the best resource for journalists working on verification, and publish regular updates and best practice guides in English, Arabic, Spanish, French and German.

  1. Check the upload date. In YouTube, just under the search bar is a button marked “filters”. This allows you to order the results by upload date. The YouTube Data Viewer from Amnesty’s Citizen Evidence Lab can give you the exact time of upload
  2. Check the thumbnail. Do a reverse image search in Tin Eye (as above)
  3. Read the description carefully
  4. Look at the account carefully (What kind of videos does it post? How often? When did it open? Are there any contact details? Are there other social media accounts using the same username?)
  5. See if the video has been shared elsewhere. Take the video’s unique code (the bit after the v= in the url) and paste that into the search bar in Twitter and Facebook
  6. Crosscheck on Google Maps, and zoom in on Street View. is another option.
  7. Look for visual clues like the style of road signs, traffic lights, shadows which give an idea of the time of day, and listen out for clues such as people’s accents
  8. Check the weather when the video is said to have been filmed and see if that matches. You can do that at WolframAlpha
  1. Video Vault

More resources


✳️ First Draft News is now the go-to place on anything to do with verification or social media newsgathering. They publish news, best-practice and case studies in this area in English, Arabic, Spanish, French and German.

Forums and debunking:

✳️ Storyful’s Open Newsroom is a Google+ community where journalists and researchers are invited to help verify content, and share information

Online training:

Getting It Right: Accuracy and Verification in the Digital Age by Craig Silverman for Poynter News University (costs $30, three hours)

✳️ 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
  • 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

The Social Media Reporter

A guide to using social media for newsgathering

Cordelia Hebblethwaite

Written by

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

The Social Media Reporter

A guide to using social media for newsgathering