ProPublica releases simple tool for searching Instagram


ProPublica news application developer Al Shaw discovered an Instagram API that lets you search by both time and geographic coordinates -- "a perfect way to see who's at a certain place at a certain time," Shaw writes.

He built a simple tool called QIS, or Quick Instagram Search, that journalists could use to find Instagram photos at newsworthy events. "Just having fun with it, we found a lot of interesting stuff," he said in a phone call with Poynter. "Anything you could type into Google Maps would work."

One example from Shaw's post: a photo of the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15 minutes before it was bombed. QIS could conceivably help newsrooms verify photos from breaking news events.

"Right now, we're just going to have it running internally in the newsroom," Shaw said, adding that ProPublica has no plans to "host a usable version of the app." But as with its table-setter app, which builds interactive tables, ProPublica made QIS' code available to anyone who wants it.

Shaw said journalists could install it on a Mac fairly easily if they're comfortable with its Terminal program, and that it could run on a website."

Related: New Guardian, Scoopshot efforts bring elements of automation to photo verification

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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