Truly Media: Verifying news in the era of online disinformation

In today’s social media world, vast amounts of information are produced in colossal rates and by enormous numbers

In today’s social media world, vast amounts of information are produced in colossal rates and by enormous numbers of sources, to be delivered to huge audiences. The question is: has what has been posted, actually happened? Some news is bound to be fake – and as a result this has caused a decline in trust in the news.

According to the Reuters Digital News Report 2019, the average level of trust in the news in general is down 2 percentage points to 42% compared to 2018, while only 49% of the respondents pinpoint that they trust the news media they use.  At the same time, in all 28 EU member states, at least 7 out of 10 citizens perceive fake news to be a problem in democracy (Eurobarometer 2019, Fake news and disinformation online). Disinformation has always been a big challenge, but social media intensified the problem exponentially.

To combat this, and according to a 2019 market report by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), ‘The State of Technology in Global Newsrooms, over the past year, 44% of newsrooms and 37% of journalists have undertaken more fact-checking activities. Today, more than twice as many journalists use social media verification tools as did two years ago. In 2017, the ICFJ found that only 11% of journalists used any kind of social media verification tools and/or services. Two years later, this trend has changed significantly, as 39% of journalists use digital tools to fact-check and verify information daily, and 56% do so at least weekly. These include the use of tools such as fact-checking websites, tools for detecting plagiarism, Google Fact Check and Facebook Fact Checker, reverse image search engines and social media verification platforms.

When it comes to digital fact-checking tools, meet Truly Media, a verification platform that aims to help journalists to better deal with the increased volume and complexity of online disinformation. Given the fact that automated verification and fact-checking may never become possible and human judgement will always be necessary, Truly Media aims to assist journalists with the various fact-checking and verification tasks they perform, through the optimisation of their workflow, the facilitation of collaboration, the integration of multiple fact-checking tools, the use of analytics, and ultimately through time-saving and increased efficiency and effectiveness.

What verification functionalities can journalists exploit from Truly Media?

Advanced Search & Filtering

  • In order to monitor social media content journalists can set up different ‘Feeds’, based on specific keywords, through a friendly and easy-to-use interface. Each feed is built based on content from a single source, mainly Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and VK. Integration with Slack allows users to easily import content from their Slack channels into Truly Media. All elements within a feed can be filtered using a variety of criteria, such as the as the time, source, language, and keywords, depending on the capabilities of the particular social media channel.
  • Journalists can cross-search and explore aggregated content from different platforms. With a single search query, users can explore content from Google, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, 4chan’s /pol channel, and news websites. In order to make the search easier, they are also able to use a set of advanced filters to include or exclude terms, as well as easy-to-use Google search operators.
  • Google Translation tools are offered to make dealing with foreign language content easier.

Truly Media: Creating a new feed screenshot

Collaborative Content Organisation, Curation & Archiving

  • Truly Media supports common workspaces, called ‘Collections’, where fact checkers and collaborating journalists can define working teams to perform particular tasks on relevant content and together decide on how trustworthy the information they have found is.
  • Users can add content inside a Collection from their feeds. The contents of each Collection can further be enhanced by directly importing content from Facebook, Twitter, Tweetdeck and YouTube, using a browser extension.
  • Users can also upload media files and even paste links from social media posts or websites to add interesting content inside their Collections. All this extra content is automatically available for further investigation.
  • Journalists can also add notes and tags to a specific item or mark certain items as important. All changes performed on Collection items are visible in real-time to all the members of the team. It is also possible to search for specific items within a Collection by applying filters (search by tag, by status, by source or by assignee) and change the way items are sorted.
  • Since everything is organised and saved inside Truly Media, users can make sure that their work and findings are archived. Through a “global search” feature, users can retrieve saved content, while content inside a Collection can be exported to CSV for archiving or further analysis purposes.

Truly Media: Collection view

Collaboration in real-time in and out of a news organisation

  • Journalists can work collaboratively to verify photos, videos, text, and social media accounts in real-time, by using a common workspace and a set of communication channels, like email notifications, Slack messaging, group chats, direct messages, etc.
  • Collections and all individual items within a Collection are viewable by all team members. Each Collection has a dedicated chat where team members working on it can communicate. All activities that took place in a Collection are logged and can be viewed by all.
  • Collaboration is a rather important part of the verification process, since individual users need to find and connect with other stakeholders to share their expertise or explore further collaborations. Truly Media allows users to share their Collections with other team members or invite other organisations that use the platform to work together.

Digital content verification on the spot

Journalists can select the most important items for their story and verify each item individually using a verification checklist and integrated third-party verification tools. With the verification checklist, journalists can record the results of their analysis on a specific Collection item. The checklist has been designed based on the workflow of investigative journalism. Last but not least, journalists can mark down each item’s verification status as raw, pending, unclear, verified or fake.

Truly Media provides a variety of tools which help users determine the veracity of online content, like the following:

Image and Video Verification support

One of the most common issues for journalists is verifying images and videos from websites, social media and YouTube. With Truly Media, journalists can examine the authenticity of a photo or a video with:

  • Reverse Image Searches: If journalists want to know an image’s origin or even find similar photos, they can search with the image URL or the file itself on the Web (in reverse image search engines like Google images or Yandex) and get information on whether the specific material has been used again, even identify near duplicate and modified images. Truly Media allows you to directly send images or video frames to Google, Yandex, and TinEye.
  • Verification by location: Google Maps and Street View have been integrated inside Truly Media to allow users to easily check locations, find the right one and save the coordinates in the item’s Checklist. You can also check weather conditions on a particular day and time in a specific location by searching the specific location and date on Wolfram Alpha.
  • Image Tools: Examine and analyse images through a set of functionalities like image flipping, using a magnifier, cropping or annotating parts of the image. Apply a set of image analysis algorithms like Error level analysis (ELA) and Double Quantization (DQ) analysis to assess the authenticity of an image.
Twitter content analysis with TruthNest

When journalists discover the occurrence of an event, they need to verify this as quickly as possible so that they are the first to publish it without risking to report something that can be later proven false. TruthNest is the tool that can prove critical at times in minimising the time from event discovery to story publication.

TruthNest screenshot

TruthNest is a Twitter analytics tool, which is integrated into Truly Media to assist journalists with verifying social media content. The tool uses several metrics in order to retrieve and provide us with a variety of analytics that can help gain additional insights about a Twitter account. In specific, by analysing Twitter user accounts based on their activity, network and influence, TruthNest allows journalists to:

  • access in-depth twitter analytics
  • assess the credibility of a source
  • detect trolls and bots

TruthNest’s analytics produce a set of alerts or flags which highlight suspicious behaviour and generate a bot probability score for the analysed Twitter account.

In Truly Media, we believe that we have a responsibility to minimise the spread of disinformation; and this starts by supporting journalism. As Matt Cooke, Head of Partnerships and Training, at Google says, “There is nothing that will replace journalism, your analysis, and your integrity, but there are digital tools that can help you make that decision yourself.” By exploiting a toolkit of the most effective internal and third party verification tools mentioned above, our collaborative, verification platform is here to support journalists in gathering information and making decisions. We verify together, in real time.

Interested? Drop us a line at info@truly.media

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