Faster Fact Checking, Part 2: Making Sense of Social Media

Storyful, Geofeedia, and TinEye: Three tools that help journalists quickly make sense of social media

Three resources that help journalists make sense of social media

This is the second in a series about online resources for faster fact checking. Read Part 1 for tools that help journalists make sense of statistics. And make sure to follow up with Part 3 and Part 4.

Social media often gets blamed for inaccurate reporting and spreading misinformation.  Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social networks can be helpful, so long as they’re used responsibly.

User-generated content can help the media learn and see news as it unfolds before they’re on the scene. However, just like any public tips that come into a newsroom, tweets and Instagram photos must be verified.

Here are three tools specifically geared toward verifying content on social media:


Launched in 2010, Storyful has been heralded as the world’s first social news agency. A global team of technologists and journalists curate social media and video content 24 hours a day – interacting in social media communities to verify what’s out there. CEO Mark Little very aptly refers to Storyful’s process as “The Human Algorithm.”

In turn, Storyful provides social web sources and verified content to newsrooms, working with The New York Times, BBC, ABC, Al Jazeera, and many others.

Storyful’s success recently led to its acquisition by News Corp.


A popular way to quickly sort through social media is to geographically organize it.

When Al Tompkins wrote on Poynter about his coverage of the Asiana crash, he highlighted Geofeedia’s helpfulness: “One of the most invaluable tools was Geofeedia, which allowed me a draw a circle around the tarmac and airport terminal to find people posting pictures, tweets and Facebook posts. That is where I picked up the most remarkable photo of all so far — the one tweeted out by Samsung executive David Eun.”

The platform uses an algorithm to curate geotagged data from Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Picasa, and Flickr so that it’s easier for public safety officials and the media to filter it in one place.

In addition to using Geofeedia to search an area during breaking news, it can be used to continually monitor your local coverage area or find user-generated content during high-profile events.

The International Journalists’ Network has an excellent review of how journalists can use Geofeedia.


At a presentation on Flickr and Tumblr, Yahoo estimated about 880 billion photos will be taken in 2014. Unfortunately, among the ever-increasing number of photos being shared on social media are many fake or doctored images.

For instance, Mashable compiled a collection of fake Hurricane Sandy photos that had been passed around online. While some of these images were downright fabrications of photoshopped storm clouds over the New York skyline, others were incorrectly captioned photos from previous storms.

Sites like TinEye help journalists and the public verify these images’ validity.

TinEye is a reverse image search engine. Using image identification technology that looks at pixels instead of keywords and metadata, it helps users figure out where an image came from and if modified versions exist.

In addition to accepting contributions of complete online image collections, TinEye crawls the web for new images with more than four billion photos indexed in its search engine. TinEye’s Cool Searches page has compiled a few examples of these modified images traced back to the originals.

These are just a few of the tools used to verify social media content. For a more complete guide on how journalists are using these tools and best practices when tracking information on social networks, see Josh Stearns’ compilation of how-tos, case studies, and discussions on the matter.

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Amanda Hicken is a former media relations manager at PR Newswire.  Follow her on Twitter @ADHicken.

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