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Jan 29 / King Kaufman

NPR’s Andy Carvin, a Twitter reporting star, on how he verifies reports

Authentication and verification have suddenly become a higher priority for a lot of people in sports media in the wake of the Manti Te’o fake-girlfriend story.

We’ve always stressed the importance of those things at Bleacher Report. As with most online writers, it’s an important part of what we do because when we’re writing about news events, we usually haven’t been present for them.

Andy Carvin, who has used Twitter to cover Arab uprisings, has become a world leader in remote authentication and verification of news. Carvin, who calls himself a “real-time informational DJ” on his Twitter feed, did an “Ask Me Anything” at over the weekend, and he answered a lot of questions about authentication.

The excellent journalism blog 10,000 Words rounded up some highlights, including:

On Authenticating Video

The most import thing to do is look for context. Is there something visible in the background that can be IDed, like a building or other landmark? If people are speaking, what kind of accents do they have? If there are weapons involved, what kinds are they? Does the timestamp of the video match the weather forecast, or the location of the sun and shadows? Etc, etc. Fortunately, I have a lot of Twitter followers who love this type of detective work.

On Verifying Twitter Sources

Whenever possible, I try to start with someone I already know and trust. I then look at their account and see who they’re following, and how long they’ve followed them. The longer they’ve been doing it, the more likely they know each other. I then repeat the process with some of those people. Once I’ve done that, I watch their accounts carefully to see what they’re doing. Are they uploading new footage with new timetamps [sic] or geotagging? Do they clumsily throw around words like “BREAKING” or “CONFIRMED” in all caps, in every tweet? Are they followed by people I know, who I can ask to vouch for them? And so on.

For more on authentication and verification, see:

Verifying sources: A primer and checklist

Hurricane Sandy’s lessons on verifying online images, info

Verification: Nieman Reports’ thorough review of vital issue

Verifying stories on social media: A reading list from Poynter