Friday, April 6, 2012

Crap detector Part III: verify Tweets, FB

Lately I have been teaching my students at Tsinghua University how to verify information they get in press releases, hear from news sources and see on the web. This is my third entry on the subject.

Crap detector Part I: Credibility as business model
Crap Detector Part II: Mr. Daisey's Apple Factory

The website has posted the most thorough list of techniques I have seen of how journalists can verify information they find on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media.

It would pay to read the whole piece, which gets into the nitty-gritty how-to. Here is the summary from the end of the post:
  • Monitor across platforms (including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Soundcloud, AudioBoo, Bambuser)
  • Spot and understand trends (using tools like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and Trendsmap to create lists and identify trending topics)
  • Build a network of contacts before the story breaks and limit the stress
  • Use online tools to examine evolution of images (including TinEye, Google Images and WolframAlpha)
  • Verifying sources – speak to them and cross reference answers with social data
  • Verifying sources – look at social media history across platforms
  • Use Whois tools to verify websites
  • Check for photoshopping or repetition in images
  • Apply the Too Good To Be True test
  • Harness online discussion boards and experts (use sites like Snopes to spot urban myths and common hoaxes early on)
  • Question edited footage
  • How urgent is it – could more steps be taken to verify before you publish?
  • Crowdsourcing – 'be judicious' about how you send out unconfirmed information
  • Consider any permissions and crediting which may be necessary
  • Clearly communicate the level of verification a story has been given
  • Made a mistake or new information come to light? Issue a clear and networked correction
These techniques are not that different from the kind of cross-checking and triangulation journalists would use for information before there were social networks. Today, though, it is much more difficult to identify information with an institution or organization and thus gauge its credibility. 

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