As user generated content (UGC) becomes more prevalent and relied upon by journalists for reporting the news quickly, the need for authentication has grown. Google has played a large role in this. Tools like Google Search, Google Maps and others have allowed journalists to research UGC information, photos and videos so they only disseminate the facts. Let’s look at a few.
Google News Lab
Launched in mid-2015, Google News Lab aims to “empower innovation at the intersection of technology and media.” The site offers written and video tutorials and case studies for journalists so they can more effectively use Google’s tools for verifying UGC. It also includes data gleaned from Google Trends and case studies o
n how newsrooms have used this data in their reporting. TechCrunch notes, “With citizen reporters regularly turning to social media first – and not typically on Google+, the company’s own social media site – Google is working to assert the variety of other ways it has to participate in the reporting process, ranging from first-hand videos posted to YouTube to its wealth of data and information collected from the world’s searchers.”
Though the tools on the site are not new, the tutorials are; Google recognizes its role in reporting the news and is showcasing its commitment to helping news organizations report valid information.
According to Google, 300 videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Identifying which are original, real and timely can be difficult for reporters. Amnesty International has created a step-by-step guide for authenticating videos using the information found on the YouTube user’s video and account. Steps include viewing how many videos the YouTube user has posted in the past, hidden data on the video, YouTube account creation date, checking geographical data (is the video you’re trying to authenticate captured in the same area as the other videos posted by the same account?), checking social media accounts associated with the YouTube account, and searching YouTube with keywords found in the video in question.
Additionally, Google partnered with Storyful to create YouTube Newswire, which authenticates videos for journalists’ use.
Google Search & Image Search
After emergencies, many images are uploaded to social media claiming to be taken during or right after the emergency. Some may be real, but others may be shares of the original photos, doctored photos or old images of a past, similar emergency. For shares and old images, journalists can use reverse image search on Google to authenticate a picture. The video below outlines how to do this. For doctored images, journalists will have to use FotoForensics.com or a similar tool.
Journalists can use Google+ to join groups like Storyful’s Open Newsroom, which is a “real-time community of news professionals working together to establish the maximum clarity and context around the big stories of the day. Our objective is to debunk, fact-check, clarify, credit and source.”
Google Maps is a useful feature for authenticating videos and images. Do the terrain, buildings, and other identifying items in the video/image in question match that of the Google terrain maps, satellite maps and Street View images? If not, a journalist can automatically discount the content.
Translating can be especially important for video that is recorded and uploaded in a language a journalist doesn’t speak. For this, journalists can use Google Translate. Copying and pasting a video’s title, caption and/or subtitles into Google Translate can help with deciphering exactly what the video is claiming to be.
Curious to see what verification looks like in action? Below is an example via Nieman Reports.
Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=16&v=UI8S5kO-vEM
*All videos in this article have been authenticated for originality.