Tapping The Wisdom Of The Crowd

New site aims to promote a platform for crowd-sourced journalism

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© 2017 Bellingcat

We hear a lot about devices and computing, but often very little about the consequences of the so-called democratisation of connectivity across the world. Despite this silence, one major trend is that the entire way journalists report and source information on breaking events, is radically changing.

In a world where everybody is filming, tweeting, Instagramming, sending snaps and posting to social media, everyday people have become possibly the best source for breaking news that a journalist has. The problem with this, of course, is verification. While there is a huge amount of information being generated by the ‘crowd’, verifying its authenticity is often difficult and time consuming.

Within this dynamic comes Bellingcat - a new site being launched to provide journalists and bloggers with a platform to collaborate and verify crowdsourced information. The website itself will be split into two areas: News and Resources. The News section will create a space for journalists to work together to collate and verify news and media on a wide variety of topics ranging from conflicts in Iraq & Syria to the phone hacking scandal in the UK.

Image: © 2014 Bellingcat

The Resources section of the site will contain educational information for journalists on how they could leverage crowdsourced information in the most accurate way possible. It will detail information on techniques (such as geolocation) which can help journalists to identify the accuracy and authenticity of information sourced from everyday people on social media.

The website itself is the brainchild of blogger and citizen journalist Eliot Higgins. Known online as ‘Brown Moses’, he has in 2 years risen to become one of leading experts on the Syrian Civil War despite having never travelled to the country himself. Working from the UK, he managed to identify major incidents in this conflict (such as the regime’s use of chemical weapons) using only crowdsourced footage uploaded to YouTube and other social media.

Currently, he is engaging in a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in order to fund the site itself. As well, he has already gathered together a core group of leading journalists in multiple fields and locations around the world to begin as contributors to the site. Interested parties who donate 5GBP to the Kickstarter campaign will be given access to a closed beta of the site, where they too will be able to contribute.