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Plug & Play News: Sourcing, Verifying and Publishing Info in Real-Time Crisis

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A presentation given at re:publica 2015. See session: https://re-publica.de/en/session/plug-play-news-sourcing-verifying-and-publishing-information-real-time-crisis Below are more details.

*Short thesis:*
Sourcing, verifying, and getting information out to the public in these times of turmoil is often essential to minimize damage and maintain healthy societies. Based on real experience such as monitoring elections in South-Eastern Europe, relief effort during the 2014 floods in the Balkans, and the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, this talks shows how to report about critical events in real time and ensure information is correct all with readily available online tools.

*Description:*
Europe has had a turbulent few years and things don't seem to be slowing down. The world's second smallest continent is host to over 50 countries, all of them very connected, both offline and online, and all of them going through their own issues -- from devastating natural disasters, through protests, political change, crime, migrations, to armed conflict.

The knowledge and experience shared in this talk have been obtained mostly through participating in reporting on crisis situations in Eastern Europe. Yet, the know-how and the methods are applicable in similar contexts worldwide.

Sourcing, verifying, and getting information out to the public in times of turmoil are essential to minimize damage and maintain healthy societies. Based on real experiences like promoting civic engagement in and reporting on elections in Eastern Europe, the 2014 floods in the Balkans, and the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, this session draws on real-life examples and first-hand accounts of reporting on significant real-time events using these methods to make sure the information is correct.

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Plug & Play News: Sourcing, Verifying and Publishing Info in Real-Time Crisis

  1. PLUG & PLAY NEWS Sourcing, verifying and disseminating information in a real-time crisis
  2. Hello!@NikiBGD @MaliciaRogue @TetyUAna
  3. 1. Sourcing information in a real-time crisis
  4. Traditional media Social media ‘Human intelligence’ Where do I get the info from? Authoritative opinion First-hand accounts
  5. ▣ Know your social networks ▣ Identify key actors ▣ Look for users on the ground ▣ Engage How to find ‘news’ on social media?
  6. Twitter Hashtags are useful in the beginning: ▣ indicate scale of events ▣ help spot key users and related tags ▣ use for initial search, lists and aggregators □ #євромайдан, #евромайдан, #euromaidan Image in the public domain, Wikimedia Commons
  7. Over 8,000 tweets per hour 22 November, 2013 141,000 followers within few days @euromaidan (@EuroMaydan, @EuroMaydan_eng) Nearly 9,000 tweets per hour 1 December, 2013
  8. Twitter Once the agenda is set: ▣ users quickly consolidate around ‘official’ accounts ▣ key media is followed anyway
  9. Twitter ▣ Language barrier - no longer a problem (?)
  10. ▣ Hashtags are less useful ▣ Identify key actors ▣ Follow “official” pages ▣ Sign up for most popular events Facebook
  11. ▣ Find groups that organize online Facebook
  12. #EuromaidanSOS page and ‘official’ #Euromaidan page
  13. ▣ Ask people to send you anything that might be of interest ▣ Don’t have a network? Build it! □ write about them □ help connect with other media □ share Crowdsourcing content
  14. Low online presence No/Limited Internet connection Language barrier Infowars/Ideological modulation of content Hate speech
  15. 2. Verifying information in a real-time crisis
  16. ▣ Be sceptical. Be patient □ know the context ■ livestreams ■ other media ■ own timeline, links repository, etc. ■ activists ‘Digital innocence’ does not last
  17. How sure are you that the info is real? ▣ The 5Ws: □ who? □ where? □ when? □ what? □ why? Peter Trimming, CC-by-SA 2012, geography.co.uk
  18. Pics or it didn’t happen (sort of)
  19. How sure are you that the image is real? ▣ Remember the 5Ws ▣ Some tools □ Google reverse image search (find original and similar images) □ TinEye (find original image, compare) □ Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer (metadata if it exists)
  20. ▣ Remember the 5Ws ▣ Some tools □ Google reverse image search (find original and similar images) ▣ TinEye (find original image, compare) ▣ Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer (metadata if it exists) The magical tool does not exist Absolute certainty vs. acceptable plausibility How sure are you that the image is real?
  21. ‘Authoritative’ opinion Uncertainty + anxiety = the two core elements Fear breeds rumour + (Social) media stardom Even good professionals fall to bad info
  22. Beware the expert! Case: Bosnia protests and the “violent unification” plot ▣ The ‘Slavic’ revolution that wasn’t: □ Serbian tabloid (gov’t mouthpiece) □ preys on historical uneasiness □ benefits wide audience □ plays with ethnicity/religion □ not the only such case...
  23. Do the accounts belong to real people? ▣ When was the account created? □ What pictures are there? □ What background information is there? ■ Places ■ Relations ■ Contacts ▣ Are there any associated accounts? ■ pipl.com ■ Facebook/LinkedIn ?
  24. ▣ ‘Warning signs’: □ account created only 16 hrs earlier □ user photo belongs to someone else □ actively shared through popular resources □ identical translations into various languages How to spot a social media fake? Case: Odessa May 2 tragedy ‘witness’ account
  25. 3. Disseminating information in a real-time crisis
  26. Correct information, wrong time Tweets and Facebook updates remain online: ▣ sharing continues despite timestamp; ▣ call for action active; ▣ mobilisation continues... May have direct negative impact on situation on the ground
  27. Disseminating and publishing ▣ Towards the ‘outside’: □ Wordpress blog: main content point; □ Ushahidi map: incoming damaged areas and emergencies □ Twitter + Facebook: to share further Erase social media updates if no longer applicable
  28. In practice ▣ Within the relief team members: □ Several separate Skype group conversations for several topics, □ A closed Facebook group to coordinate verification of incoming information □ Enure need of information is communicated ASAP to both team and public
  29. Get organised from the start ▣ assign tasks and roles ▣ define communication channels ▣ know who is where at each moment of shift ▣ define what each tool is used for ▣ identify reliable contacts on the ground + work with Red Cross
  30. Key takeaways
  31. ▣ Look in the right places ▣ Assume it is fake until proven otherwise ▣ Beware of the limits of technology □ low tech in disaster context □ verification on the ground is crucial in most cases ▣ Right info, right time & the right platform Sourcing, verifying, publishing
  32. THANKS!

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