Bird words

New research suggests it’s possible to automatically identify fake images on Twitter

One of the most challenging aspects of social media is figuring out how to efficiently verify information and stop the spread of misinformation during breaking news situations.

Hurricane Sandy gave rise to a variety of efforts to try and identify and debunk fake images that were circulating on social media. News outlets like The Atlantic, BuzzFeed and the blog “Is Twitter Wrong?” all attempted to verify images in as close to real-time as possible, and spread word about the fakes.

But what if we could automate that process during crisis situations like Sandy?

A recent paper presented by researchers from the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, IBM Research Labs and the University of Maryland found that it was possible to identify tweets containing fake Sandy images with up to 97 percent accuracy.

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Cameraman at work

Associated Press purchases minority stake in Bambuser video service

Associated Press

The Associated Press has purchased a minority stake in Bambuser — a service that lets users watch, share and broadcast video.

AP Director of Global Video News Sandy MacIntyre will join Bambuser’s board as “a non-executive director,” the AP says. In a release about the move, MacIntyre said:

“User-generated video content of live and breaking news is the new frontier of news generation. … Bambuser is the proven platform for eyewitnesses around the world to stream their video content and has been invaluable to the AP over the past year, allowing us to access footage of verifiable breaking news stories that would simply not have been possible before. Moreover, we have always been deeply impressed by the proven technology from the small but very talented team at Bambuser.”

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Anthony Weiner’s website apparently shows Pittsburgh skyline

The Washington Post | NBC New York | Capital

New York Times political reporter Michael Barbaro made a compelling observation about New York mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner’s website on Thursday: It seems the banner image isn’t of New York, but Pittsburgh.

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Boston Marathon Explosions

How the AP verified photo of Boston bombing suspect leaving scene

Associated Press
David Green’s cell-phone photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appearing to move away from the scene of last Monday’s bombing almost seemed too good to be true, Associated Press Director of Photography Santiago Lyon said in a phone call Friday evening.

“When the picture began to circulate, we were suspicious of it because when we looked at it closely it seemed to have been a composite picture,” Lyon said. “But what happens often with digital imagery is when you’re looking closely at low-resolution files you see things that are misleading, because of the way the pic is compressed or the size of the file.”

A cropped version of Green’s photo (AP Photo/David Green)

So the AP asked Green, a Florida businessman who’d completed the marathon and was watching other runners finish when the bombs went off, for a high-resolution version of his pic. Read more

Bird words

‘Let Me Tweet That For You’ site raises concerns for journalists

This tweet looks pretty real, doesn’t it?

It’s not, though. I faked that tweet using a Web service named “Let Me Tweet That For You.” It’s pretty simple — you type in a Twitter username and a message, and it generates a realistic-looking image of a tweet from that person. It even adds fake retweet and favorite counts to lend some more credibility.

The site is a project of OKFocus, a New York-based marketing agency. It’s actually about a year old, but has been somehow rediscovered this week and is really taking off on Twitter. Read more


How old ‘Swedish mannequins’ picture spread with bogus information

Quartz | The Washington Post
If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen this image by now, along with cheers about the message H&M is sending by using mannequins that look like real women.

But the picture isn’t new, Jeff Yang writes in Quartz, and nor was it taken at H&M. Yahoo, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post were among the outlets that posted stories about the image. After learning the models weren’t from H&M, Delia Lloyd of the Post said the image was a hoax. That wasn’t quite right, either.

“Yesterday, I received an urgent Twitter message from Rebecka Silvekroon, a 29-year-old project manager for LBi, a digital communications agency based in Malmö in southern Sweden, asking for assistance in reaching Yahoo, one of the primary vectors of the image’s viral distribution,” Yang writes. Read more


Fake news: Pig rescuing goat is really a dog

Dave Itzkoff of the NYTimes asked me last week to look at a 30-second video of a cute little pig rescuing a cute little bleating goat that was somehow trapped in a pond.

My first reaction was: fake. Yet several news organizations, including “NBC Nightly News” and ABC’s “Good Morning America,” had shared the video as a demonstration of a heartwarming moment that had gone viral.

Here’s how I concluded it was fake (and they could have too):

  • When you see a video like that, your first instinct is to ask questions, like, “What was trapping that goat in the water and how exactly did the pig help free the goat?” “Where did this happen?” You immediately want more context. So I went to the original YouTube posting, where I expected to find a short paragraph answering these questions.
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New research details how journalists verify information

Stop a journalist on the street and ask her to list the fundamentals of the job and you’re almost certain to hear mention of accuracy.

In “The Elements of Journalism,” Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel wrote that journalism’s “essence is a discipline of verification.”

But how do journalists actually go about verifying information in their everyday work? What does it look like in practice, and how does it vary from one reporter to the next?

Fundamental questions, and yet there’s little academic research to answer them.

“While there is a long tradition of measuring news reports’ accuracy post hoc … substantially less work has examined the processes by which journalists seek to attain accuracy,” write Canadian journalism researchers Ivor Shapiro, Colette Brin, Isabelle Bédard-Brûlé and Kasia Mychajlowycz in their newly published paper, “Verification As A Strategic Ritual: How journalists retrospectively describe processes for ensuring accuracy.”

It’s perhaps the first paper to offer a look at how working journalists view and practice verification. Read more


Montreal students take credit for fake viral video of baby-snatching eagle

YouTube | New Statesman | Fark | Reddit | Storyful | Centre NAD
Since being uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday, this incredible video of an eagle swooping down and snatching a toddler with its talons from a Montreal park has been watched more than 1.2 million times.

But no matter how much your eyes want to believe it, the video is a fake.

Three students in a 3D Animation and Digital Design degree program at Montreal’s Centre NAD say that “Both the eagle and the kid were created in 3D animation and integrated in to the film afterwards.” Read more

In this instagram photo provided by Ana Andjelic, Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park, in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, is surrounded by floodwaters from Sandy's surge, Monday, Oct. 30, 2012, in New York. Sandy, the storm that made landfall Monday, caused multiple fatalities, halted mass transit and cut power to more than 6 million homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Ana Andjelic)

Editor Fergus Bell explains how AP verifies user-generated content from Sandy to Syria

Hurricane Sandy was the kind of event Fergus Bell was promoted to help handle.

Bell was recently named AP’s Social Media & UGC Editor, International thanks to his work sourcing and verifying user-generated content for the organization.

So when Sandy struck, he and AP social media editor Eric Carvin worked to sift through what they called “a deluge of photos and videos depicting dramatic, genuine moments from the storm” in addition to “an extraordinary amount of fabricated content.”

This is where the UGC verification process developed by Bell was especially handy.

In a recent interview, Bell told me AP’s UGC verification process was built on top of the cooperative’s existing verification process and policies. UGC can require special verification practices, but in the end it has to meet AP standards. Read more

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