Archive for the ‘Verification’ Category

Online Verification Course (First Draft) [Open To Public – January 2018]

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

First Draft launches its online verification training course

From the post:

Journalists strive to get the story right, but as we are bombarded by far more information than ever before, the tools and skills crucial to telling the whole story are undergoing a profound change. Understanding who took the photo or video, who created the website and why, enables journalists to meet these challenges. Verification training, up until now, has largely been done on the job and as needed. But today, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of our online verification course.

In this course, we teach you the steps involved in verifying the eyewitness media, fabricated websites, visual memes and manipulated videos that emerge on social media. The course is designed so that anyone can take the course from start to finish online, or educators can take elements and integrate into existing classroom teaching. For newsroom training managers, we hope the you can encourage your staff to take the course online, or you can take individual videos and tutorials and use during brown-bag lunches. We provide relevant and topical examples — from events such as Hurricane Irma and the conflict in Syria — to show how these skills and techniques are put into practice.

The course is open only to First Draft partners until January 2018, so consider that as an incentive for your organization to become a First Draft partner!

I haven’t seen the course material but the video introduction:

and the high quality of all other First Draft materials, sets high expectations for the verification course.

Looking forward to a First Draft course on skepticism for journalists, which uses the recent Wall Street Journal repetition of government slanders about Kerspersky Lab, which is subsequently discovered to be: “we (Israel) broke into the Kerpersky house and while robbing the place saw another burglar (Russia) there and they were looking for NSA software, so we alerted the NSA.” How Israel Caught Russian Hackers Scouring the World for U.S. Secrets

Only an editor suffering from nationalism to the point being a mental disorder would publish such a story without independent verification. Could well all be true but when all the sources are known liars, something more is necessary before reporting it as “fact.”

Media Verification Assistant + Tweet Verification Assistant

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

Media Verification Assistant

From the welcome screen:


We are a joint team of engineers and investigators from CERTH-ITI and Deutsche Welle, aiming to build a comprehensive tool for image verification on the Web.


The Media Verification Assistant features a multitude of image tampering detection algorithms plus metadata analysis, GPS Geolocation, EXIF Thumbnail extraction and integration with Google reverse image search.


It is constantly being developed, expanded and upgraded -our ambition is to include most state-of-the-art verification technologies currently available on the Web, plus unique implementations of numerous experimental algorithms from the research literature. As the platform is currently in its Alpha stage, errors may occur and some algorithms may not operate as expected.


For comments, suggestions and error reports, please contact


The source code of the Java back-end is freely distributed at GitHub.

Even in alpha, this is a great project!

Even though images can be easily altered, Photoshop and Gimp, they continue to be admissible in court, so long as a witness testifies the image
is a fair and accurate representation of the subject matter.

This project has spawned a related project: Tweet Verification Assistant, which leverages the image algorithms to verify tweets with an image or video.

Another first stop before retweeting or re-publishing an image with a story.

Storyzy A.I. Fights Fake Quotes (Ineffective Against Trump White House)

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

In the battle against fake news, Storyzy A.I. fights fake quotes

From the post:

The Quote Verifier launched today by Storyzy takes the battle against fake news to a whole new automated level by conveniently flagging fake quotes on social networks and search engines with +50,000 new authentic quotes added daily.

Storyzy aims to help social networks and search engines by spotting fake quotes. To fulfill this ambition Storyzy developed a tool (currently available in Beta version) that verifies whether a quote is authentic or not by checking if a person truly said that or not.
… (emphasis in original)

A tool for your short-list of verification tools to use on a daily basis.

It’s ineffective against the Trump White House because accurate quotes can still be “false.”

“Truthful quotes,” as per Trump White House policy, issue only from the President and must reflect what he meant to say. Subject to correction by the President.

A “truthful quote,” consists of three parts:

  1. Said by the President
  2. Reflects what he meant to say
  3. Includes any subsequent correction by the President (one or more)

There is a simply solution to avoiding “false” quotes from President Trump:

Never quote him or his tweets at all.

Quote his lackeys, familiars and sycophants, but not him.

A Study in News Verification

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Turkey, propaganda and eyewitness media: A case study in verification for news by Sam Dubberley.

I would amend Michael Garibaldi‘s line in Babylon 5: Exercise of Vital Powers (#4.16):

Everybody lies.

to read:

Everybody lies. [The question is why?]

No report (“true” or “false”) is made to you without motivation. The attempt to discern that motivation can improve your handling of such reports.

Sam’s account is a great illustration of taking the motivation for a report into account.

First Draft – Observational Challenge

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

First Draft – Observational Challenge by Jenni Sargent.

From the webpage:

Can you identify these locations based on the visual clues in the pictures? Think about street signs, the language of shop signs, the landscape and architecture to get an idea of where it might be.

To learn more about identifying locations, see this article on ‘Piecing together visual clues for verification‘.

From the challenge:

Each photograph in this challenge contains visual clues to help you identify where it was taken.

You have four chances to get each one right.

Helpful hints appear with every wrong answer but you will lose 1 point with each attempt.

Sorry! No spoilers!

I’m surprised that someone doesn’t have a daily photo-id twitter stream.

They may, if you run across one ping me!


Face2Face – Facial Mimicry In Real-Time Video

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

Is a video enough for you to attribute quotes to a public figure?

After reading This system instantly edits videos to make it look like you’re saying something you’re not by Greg Kumparak, you may not be so sure.

From the post:

The video up top shows a work-in-progress system called Face2Face (research paper here) being built by researchers at Stanford, the Max Planck Institute and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.

The short version: take a YouTube video of someone speaking like, say, George W. Bush. Use a standard RGB webcam to capture a video of someone else emoting and saying something entirely different. Throw both videos into the Face2Face system and, bam, you’ve now got a relatively believable video of George W. Bush’s face — now almost entirely synthesized — doing whatever the actor in the second video wanted the target’s face to do. It even tries to work out what the interior of their mouth should look like as they’re speaking.

Face2Face: Real-time Face Capture and Reenactment of RGB Videos by Justus Thies, Michael Zollhöfer, Marc Stamminger, Christian Theobalt, Matthias Nießner, offers the following abstract:

We present a novel approach for real-time facial reenactment of a monocular target video sequence (e.g., Youtube video). The source sequence is also a monocular video stream, captured live with a commodity webcam. Our goal is to animate the facial expressions of the target video by a source actor and re-render the manipulated output video in a photo-realistic fashion. To this end, we first address the under-constrained problem of facial identity recovery from monocular video by non-rigid model-based bundling. At run time, we track facial expressions of both source and target video using a dense photometric consistency measure. Reenactment is then achieved by fast and efficient deformation transfer between source and target. The mouth interior that best matches the re-targeted expression is retrieved from the target sequence and warped to produce an accurate fit. Finally, we convincingly re-render the synthesized target face on top of the corresponding video stream such that it seamlessly blends with the real-world illumination. We demonstrate our method in a live setup, where Youtube videos are reenacted in real time.

The video is most impressive:

If you want to dig deeper, consider from 2015: Real-time Expression Transfer for Facial Reenactment (PDF paper), by Justus Thies, Michael Zollhöfer, Matthias Nießner, Levi Valgaerts, Marc Stamminger, Christian Theobalt.

With its separately impressive video:

The facial mimicry isn’t perfect by any means but it is remarkably good.

Not a prediction but full body mimicry in 5 years would not surprise me.

The surprise will be the first non-consenting subject of full body mimicry.

What would you want to see Donald (short-fingers) Trump doing with a pumpkin?

PS: Apologies, I wasn’t able to locate a PDF of the 2016 paper.

‘You Were There!’ Historical Evidence Of Participation

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Free: British Pathé Puts Over 85,000 Historical Films on YouTube by Jonathan Crow.

From the post:

British Pathé was one of the leading producers of newsreels and documentaries during the 20th Century. This week, the company, now an archive, is turning over its entire collection — over 85,000 historical films – to YouTube.

The archive — which spans from 1896 to 1976 – is a goldmine of footage, containing movies of some of the most important moments of the last 100 years. It’s a treasure trove for film buffs, culture nerds and history mavens everywhere. In Pathé’s playlist “A Day That Shook the World,” which traces an Anglo-centric history of the 20th Century, you will find clips of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, the bombing of Hiroshima and Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, alongside footage of Queen Victoria’s funeral and Roger Bannister’s 4-minute mile. There’s, of course, footage of the dramatic Hindenburg crash and Lindbergh’s daring cross-Atlantic flight. And then you can see King Edward VIII abdicating the throne in 1936, Hitler’s first speech upon becoming the German Chancellor in 1933 and the eventual Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941 (above).

But the really intriguing part of the archive is seeing all the ephemera from the 20th Century, the stuff that really makes the past feel like a foreign country – the weird hairstyles, the way a city street looked, the breathtakingly casual sexism and racism. There’s a rush in seeing history come alive. Case in point, this documentary from 1967 about the wonders to be found in a surprisingly monochrome Virginia.

A treasure trove of over 85,000 historical films!

With modern face recognition technology, imagine mining these films and matching faces up against other photographic archives.

Rather than seeing George Wallace, for example, as a single nasty piece of work during the 1960’s, we may identify the followers of such “leaders.”

Those who would discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, language, etc. are empowered by those of similar views.

One use of this historical archive would be to “out” the followers of such bigots.

To protect “former” fascists supporters on the International Olympic Committee, the EU will protest any search engine that reports such results.

You should judge the IOC by their supporters as well. (Not the athletes, but the IOC.)

Reverse Image Search (TinEye) [Clue to a User Topic Map Interface?]

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

TinEye was mentioned in a post I wrote in 2015, Baltimore Burning and Verification, but I did not follow up at the time.

Unlike some US intelligence agencies, TinEye has a cool logo:


Free registration enables you to share search results with others, an important feature for news teams.

I only tested the plugin for Chrome, but it offers useful result options:


Once installed, use by hovering over an image in your browser, right “click” and select “Search image on TinEye.” Your results will be presented as set under options.

Clue to User Topic Map Interface

That is a good example of how one version of a topic map interface should work. Select some text, right “click” and “Search topic map ….(preset or selection)” with configurable result display.

That puts you into interaction with the topic map, which can offer properties to enable you to refine the identification of a subject of interest and then a merged presentation of the results.

As with a topic map, all sorts of complicated things are happening in the background with the TinEye extension.

But as a user, I’m interested in the results that FireEye presents not how it got them.

I used to say “more interested” to indicate I might care how useful results came to be assembled. That’s a pretension that isn’t true.

It might be true in some particular case, but for the vast majority of searches, I just want the (uncensored Google) results.

US Intelligence Community Logo for Same Capability

I discovered the most likely intelligence community logo for a similar search program:


The answer to the age-old question of “who watches the watchers?” is us. Which watchers are you watching?

Knowing where to look: Sources of imagery for geolocation

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Knowing where to look: Sources of imagery for geolocation by Eliot Higgins.

From the post:

With geolocation playing a core role in the verification of images, one key part of the process is finding reference information to help confirm the location of the image in question.

As recently covered on First Draft, satellite imagery from Google Earth and other providers can play an essential role in the geolocation of images. But they are not the only sources of information for corroborating material that can help you figure out where a picture or video was taken.

The resources Eliot covers need to be on your internal verification homepage. One-click away from your immediate verification need.

I really like his phrase, “knowing where to look.”

That resonates with so many topic map themes.

Piecing together visual clues for verification

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Piecing together visual clues for verification by Jenni Sargent.

From the post:

When you start working to verify a photo or video, it helps to make a note of every clue you can find. What can you infer about the location from the architecture, for example? What information can you gather from signs and billboards? Are there any distinguishing landmarks or geographical features?

Piecing together and cross referencing these clues with existing data, maps and information can often give you the evidence that you need to establish where a photo or video was captured.

Jenni outlines seven (7) clues to look for in photos and her post includes a video plus a observation challenge!

Good luck with the challenge! Compare your results with one or more colleagues!

Accelerate Your Newsgathering and Verification

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

5 vital browser plugins for newsgathering and verification by Alastair Reid.

From the post:

When breaking news can travel the world in seconds, it is important for journalists to have the tools at their disposal to get to work fast. When searching the web, what quicker way is there to have those tools available than directly in the browser window?

Most browsers have a catalogue of programs and software to make your browsing experience more powerful, like a smartphone app store. At First Draft we find Google’s Chrome browser is the most effective but there are obviously other options available.

Here are five of the most useful browser extensions for finding and checking newsworthy material online.

Alastair details five browser plugins to accelerate your search for information on breaking news stories.

Three of the five are focused on images, which can be very powerful but are useful only for a limited range of stories.

Accounts of the skulduggery of government agencies, standards organizations such as ANSI, copyright antics by the Blue People as Carl Malamud calls them, are rarely accompanied by gripping images.

That’s not to denigrate stories with a strong visual element but to say tools are needed to improve newsgathering and verification of not terribly visual stories.

Image Error Level Analyser [Read: Detects Fake Photos]

Friday, January 8th, 2016

Image Error Level Analyser by Jonas Wagner.

From the webpage:

I created a new, better tool to analyze digital images. It’s also free and web based. It features error level analysis, clone detection and more. You should try it right now.

Image error level analysis is a technique that can help to identify manipulations to compressed (JPEG) images by detecting the distribution of error introduced after resaving the image at a specific compression rate. You can find some more information about this tequnique in my blog post about this experiment and in this presentation by Neal Krawetz which served as the inspiration for this project. He also has a nice tutorial on how to interpret the results. Please do not take the results of this tool to seriously. It’s more of a toy than anything else.

Doug Mahugh pointed me to this resource in response to a post on detecting fake photos.

Now you don’t have to wait for the National Enquirer to post a photo of the current president shaking hands with aliens. With a minimum of effort you can, and people do, flood the Internet with fake photos.

Some fakes you can spot without assistance, Donald Trump being polite for instance, but other images will be more challenging. That’s where tools such as this one will save you the embarrassment of passing on images everyone but you knows are fakes.


Assault Weapons: Christmas Shopping News

Monday, December 7th, 2015

Just in time to boost the sales of assault weapons for Christmas 2015, David G. Savage reports in Supreme Court lets local ban on assault weapons stand:

In a victory for gun-control advocates, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected a 2nd Amendment challenge to a local law that forbids the sale or possession of semiautomatic weapons that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The justices by a 7-2 vote refused to review rulings by judges in Chicago who upheld a ban on assault weapons in the city of Highland Park as a reasonable gun-control regulation. Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia dissented.

The court’s decision, while not a formal ruling, strongly suggests the justices do not see the 2nd Amendment as protecting a right to own or carry powerful weapons in public.

If you are a member of the NRA (I am), you will be getting frantic communications from Wayne LaPierre decrying this latest government infringement on your Second Amendment rights.

Except he will probably phrase it as jack-booted thugs who are crouched next to your front door, ready to seize guns you mean to use only for hunting and self-defense.

Anyone who needs an assault rifle for hunting isn’t a hunter in the sense of Field and Stream. They are more like the description in Death Wish (Charles Bronson) where one character says:

…thinks we shoot our guns because it’s an extension of our penises.

To which Charles Bronson’s character replies:

I never thought about it that way. It could be true.

I mention that because the fabled accounts about this Supreme Court refusal of review are going to paint it as doom and gloom for anyone wanting to buy an assault rifle with a reasonably sized magazine.


The City of Highland Park is all of 12 square miles in size.

Within those 12 square miles, you cannot possess or sell a semiautomatic weapon that has more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

I haven’t adjusted for federal courthouses and similar areas where you cannot possess any firearm, much less a semiautomatic weapon with or without more than 10 rounds of ammunition, but the total area of the United States is 3,794,083 square miles, including water (or 9,826,630 square km).

Impact of the Supreme Court ruling: you cannot possess or sell a semiautomatic weapon with more than 10 rounds of ammunition for 12 square miles but you can both possess and sell such a weapon for 3,794,071 square miles, including water (or 9,836,599.1 square km).

I don’t feel all the threatened by a 12 square mile area ban on assault weapons with more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Don’t be stampeded into spending your Christmas money on yet another assault rifle or more ammunition.

Buy yourself something useful in case we have “technicals” as in Mogadishu.

WikiTravel describes Mogadishu this way:

WARNING: There is a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping, throughout Somalia, excluding Somaliland. Terrorist groups have made threats against Westerners and those working for Western organizations. It is known that there is a constant threat of terrorist attacks in Mogadishu. The city also remains in great danger of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks carried out by extremists who manage to get past security checkpoints around the city. Walking the streets of Mogadishu remains very dangerous, even with armed guards. Tourists are emphatically discouraged from visiting Mogadishu for the time being, while business travelers should take extreme caution and make thorough plans for any trips. Travel outside Mogadishu remains extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Those working for aid agencies should consult the security plans or advice of your organization.

May I suggest you consider acquiring a dozen or more Rocket-Propelled Grenades (RPG)? This includes the U.S. M72 LAW rocket launcher (disposable tube).

The legality of both purchasing and possessing an RPG of any make or model vary considerably from place to place, as will your appetite for risk. However, they are definitely a step up from assault rifles even with more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

You may remember seeing the Lenco Bearcat scooting around San Bernadino at a reported cost of $375,000.00.

Keep in mind that an RPG:


is to a Lenco Bearcat:


as an electric can opener:


is to a tin can:


Don’t believe the hype from the NRA or desk jockey “war fighters.” Neither side really stands up to minimal verification.

How-To Detect Fake Images in 20 Seconds

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

The video has a good “beat” to it. 😉

Entire video is 42 seconds.


Verification around the world: From Kenya to Hong Kong

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Verification around the world: From Kenya to Hong Kong by Tom Trewinnard.

From the post:

Misinformation around news on the social web is a truly global issue and around the world there are many groups and projects rising to the verification challenge. Here’s a by-no-means-exhaustive run down of a few projects we at Meedan have been watching recently.

Have you seen any great international verification efforts that we’ve missed? Share them with us in the comments here or at @FirstDraftNews on Twitter.

Seven very good examples of verification from a variety of news outlets.

You don’t want to include false information in your topic maps.

How do you verify information for inclusion?

When you debunk rumors or uncover false information, how do you share it with others?