20 Helpful Verification Tools for Journalists
Presenting accurate information to readers is crucial to journalists maintaining trust with their readers. But despite journalists’ best efforts, trust in the media continues to be an issue. The latest American Views report from Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that 50% of Americans believe national news outlets intentionally mislead or misinform the public.
The explosion of AI-generated content on the internet – some of it even published by big-name outlets – has only added another layer and more complications as readers and journalists work to determine who (or what) created a piece of content and if it’s accurate.
So, as we approach April Fool’s Day and its potential wave of hoaxes and misleading content, we thought it’d be a good time to round up a few verification tools that journalists should bookmark.
Before you begin…
If you need to verify information, why not start by seeing if the work has already been done for you?
- Use Google Fact Check Explorer to find recent fact checks on news stories.
- Bookmark Snopes.com, a trusted site dedicated to fact-checking and debunking Internet hoaxes, to crosscheck and verify user-generated content.
- Lastly, if you’re trying to verify information related to politics, try visiting FactCheck.org. The site, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, fact-checks politicians in ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Topics change based on the election cycle and equal time is given to Democrats and Republicans. Learn more about the process.
A One-Stop Shop
First Draft’s Verification Toolbox is a great resource for beginners and pros alike. It includes tools like reverse image/video search, social media account verification, links to helpful browser extensions, and more.
Fake News Debunker
This extension from InVID and WeVerify is described as a “Swiss army knife” for journalists and fact-checkers. Find the location and times for videos on YouTube and Facebook; perform reverse image searches; get metadata summaries; and more.
Trying to show readers a comparison between a manipulated image and the original? The new CheckGIF module lets you create a GIF to do just that.
The plugin is available in English, French, Spanish, and Greek.
Visit Pipl.com to find an individual’s Internet footprint and verify it via multiple social media accounts, public records, and contact details. It can help journalists gain insights and usable information on their contacts, locate persons of interest, uncover associations, vet sources, and more.
Verifying Twitter accounts
Account Analysis for Twitter looks at a Twitter user’s public tweets and provides analysis via easy-to-grasp visualizations. It’s helpful for anyone trying to learn more about another user. Use it when you want to make sure someone is legit before you embed a tweet in a story, fact-check a bold claim, or attempt to identify if a user is a bot. This tool can is especially handy given the authentication chaos at Twitter since Elon Musk’s takeover.
Trying to figure out if an event occurred where users are saying it did? These tools can help:
- The NASA Earth Observatory was created to share satellite images and information with the public. It acts as a repository of global data imagery, with freely available maps, images, and datasets. Most images on the site are free for re-publication and re-use with credit given to NASA and copyright holders as needed.
- Verifying the weather for a certain day can help you determine if a photo or video is on the up and up. Weather Underground has historical weather information dating back decades.
Is a photo really depicting what happened? Did the Pope really wear that puffer jacket? Are you looking at the original or has it been manipulated? These tools can help you figure it out:
- Foto Forensics uses error level analysis (ELA) to indicate parts of an image that may have been altered. ELA looks for differences in quality levels in the image, highlighting where alterations may have been made.
- TinEye is a popular reverse image search engine that connects images to their creators by allowing users to find out where an image originated, how it is used, whether modified versions exist, and if there are higher-resolution copies out there.
- Google Reverse Image Search: Navigate to https://images.google.com and upload or drop your image by clicking on the camera icon. You can also use this on mobile using the browser menu and selecting “request desktop site.”
- Build your own reverse image search with this Github project if you want to search outside the parameters of a search engine’s algorithm.
- This YouTube Metadata tool will let you reverse image search the video thumbnail and provides available geolocation data, channel details, and more.
Spot AI-Generated Content
As AI-generated content becomes more and more common, it’s important to know the tools at hand that will help you determine how a piece of content was created. And since AI is known to produce content riddled with errors and plagiarism, it’s a verification process that can’t be overlooked.
Luckily, as AI technology advances, new tools are being introduced to help journalists and readers with this task. Here are a few examples:
- This AI detection tool from Content at Scale has been trained on billions of pages of data and can analyze up to 25,000 characters. It will provide a line-by-line breakdown of which parts of the content are suspicious or obvious AI. It’s also a great tool for detecting plagiarism.
- Copyleaks claims 99% accuracy for its enterprise AI content detection tool. It supports multiple languages and detects AI-generated content from several models, including ChatGPT, Jasper, and others.
- This simple AI content detector from Writer.com, an enterprise AI platform, will analyze up to 1,500 words and provide an estimated percentage of human-generated content.
Tip: Unsure of what to look for? AI-generated content regularly contains lots of very short sentences, repeating words/phrases, and a lack of complex analysis.
If you have time to dedicate to a full-blown course to learn the ins and outs of verification, check out these options:
- Google News Initiative: This course is broken up into 7 lessons and takes about 45 minutes to complete. Lessons cover fact-checking tools, reverse image search, Google Earth, and more.
- Reuters News Agency: This three-chapter course is sponsored by the Facebook Journalism Project. It uses real examples and hypotheticals to help you learn to identify manipulated media.
It never hurts to have one more verification tool at your fingertips…
The Verification Handbook is a “definitive guide to verifying digital content for emergency coverage.” It’s authored by leading journalists and verification experts. The trusted book offers techniques for sifting through user-generated content to report accurate information to your readers.
Didn’t find one that quite fits your need? Check out this fact-checking tools database. It was conceived at a meeting during Global Fact 9 and contains a list of tools connected to various parts of the fact-checking process, including the identification and verification of claims, as well as the distribution of fact-checks.
Want to add a tool to the list? Let the team know.
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Rocky Parker is the Manager of Audience and Journalist Engagement at Cision PR Newswire. She's been with the company since 2010 and has worked with journalists and bloggers as well as PR and comms professionals. Outside of work, she can be found trying a new recipe, binging a new show, or cuddling with her pitbull, Hudson.