The Meedan Blog Archive

Verifying citizen media: Show the work with Checkdesk embed

The harrowing events that have taken place in the Arab world in recent weeks have left man around the world in a state of shock and confusion. Far from the cameras of international media, the region's citizens have documented - and shared via Facebook, YouTube and Twitter - countless events that should cause us pause for thought. With much regional media hamstrung either by restrictive laws, threats of violence, or an impassioned lack of objectivity, it feels the need for slow, careful consideration of events has never been greater. As economist Iris Boutros contends in her article "#Egypt needs more #Facts":

The power of information spread this way comes from the very high number of ‘information deposits’ that can be collected, aggregated and spread among people. This power extends beyond direct users of social media as information diffuses to non-users. We could put this power to greater use with more real facts.

Since 2011, Meedan has been working with regional partners to do just that. Our collaborative fact checking platform Checkdesk is now in use in six newsrooms across five countries in the Middle East, and we've been working hard with our partners to develop and test new features as they dive into the hard work of sifting through the social media noise to find some clarity for their readers. One such feature is the new Report Embed:

Report embedded from Syrian partner Shabab Souria, featuring video testimony from victims of the recent gas attacks in al-Ghouta, east Damascus

The Report Embed highlights two main features of Checkdesk:

1) The ability to attach a status to a report (i.e. video, tweet, image, status, live feed). Checkdesk journalists can declare a report "Verified", "False", "Fact checking in progress", "Undetermined". Each status has a clear visual element that highlights - at a basic level - the extent to which the report can be verified.

2) The fact-checking footnotes, which contains information about who submitted the report, any status changes, and also any fact-checking work that has been carried out on the report. In Checkdesk, this is a free-form text field that can be used to ask questions to other Checkdesk users, post information about a source, or location, or link to other media that may help corroborate a report.

Every report receives a unique URL, which means contentious or potentially dangerous media can now be shared and embedded alongside the crucial contextual information provided by Checkdesk journalists and citizen users. We believe there is great value in showing the work that has been done to verify a piece of media: allowing the reader an insight into the process is not only an exercise in transparency but also allows the reader to understand — and potentially contribute to — the journalistic value added by a publisher. One line caveats such as "this could not be independently verified" are simply inadequate in the age of digital media.

We'll be posting more on verification in coming weeks, as there are some really noteworthy and exciting examples to have emerged of late that are worthy of more extensive consideration. If you're interested in hearing more about Checkdesk - either as a developer, journalist, potential partner, or donor - then please contact Senior Program Manager Dina El Hawary (dhawary[at]meedan[dot]net) or Research & Communications Manager Tom Trewinnard (telrumi[at]meedan[dot]net).