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10: Verification Tools

Verifying Identity:

Use these online verification tools to find contact details and profiles of users who are active on social media

  • AnyWho: a free white pages directory with a reverse look-up function.
  • AllAreaCodes: a tool that allows users to look up any name and address listed against a phone number. The service is free if the number is listed in the White Pages of phones throughout the US and Canada, and they provide details about unlisted numbers for a small price.
  • BotOrNot: it checks the activity of a Twitter account and gives it a score based on how likely the account is a bot.
  • Email Checker: a tool to check whether an email address exists.
  • Facebook Graph Search: a social search engine that is integrated into Facebook. It provides a streamlined method to locate individuals. Journalists do not need to know the name of the person they are searching for; instead, they can search based on other known criteria such as location, occupation and age to find suspicious individuals.
  • Facebook Graph Search Engine by Henk van Ess: one of the best search engines to track an individual and find hidden information about the individuals shared on Facebook. Not only this tool allows one to find out the photos he/she is tagged and/or liked, but also to track where the person checked in last time incl. hotels, restaurants, and other locations.
  • GeoSocial Footprint: a website where one can track the users’ location “footprint” created from GPS enabled tweets, social check-ins, natural language location searching (geocoding) and profile harvesting.
  • HRL Lookups: one can trace network connection data, and check whether the number is valid, whether the number is active and which network the mobile is using, all real-time. Pay-for service.
  • Linkedin: through work history and connections Linkedin can provide additional means to track an individual down and verify the person's identity or story. It is one of the most useful tools to get professional information about an individual.
  • Muck Rack: among other services, it lists thousands of journalists on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Quora, Google+, LinkedIn who are vetted by a team of Muck Rack editors. You can request a demo or pay a monthly/yearly fee.
  • Numberway: a free directory of international phone books.
  • Person Finder: one of the most well-known open source databanks for individuals to post and search for the status of people affected during disaster. Whenever a large scale disaster happens, the Google Crisis Team sets up a person finder. It is however activated during/after a humanitarian disaster.
  • Pipl.com: searches for an individual’s Internet footprint and can help identify through multiple social media accounts, public records and contact details.
  • Rapportive: this Gmail plugin gives users a LinkedIn profile on their contacts, including social media accounts, location, and employment.
  • Reverse Phone Number Look-up: search US Phone Numbers to know who is calling you. It is handy when one is in direct contact with the source. There is also a Canada version.
  • Spokeo: a people search engine that can find individuals by name, email, phone or username. Results are merged into a profile showing gender and age, contact details, occupation, education, marital status, family background, economic profile and photos.
  • Skypegrab: with a skype handle, one can track IP address and user location.
  • Storyful MultiSearch Extension: simple and quick solution to search accounts associated with a specific handle from one social platform to another.
  • WebMii: the tool searches for weblinks that match an individual’s name, or can identify unspecified individuals by keyword. It gives a web visibility score which can be used to identify fake profiles.
  • Who.is: it finds the registered users of a domain name and details the date of registration, location and contact details of the registrant or assignee. There is also a chrome extension and there is also a feature to carry out a historical search.

Verifying Places:

Did something actually happen where the crowd said it happened?

  • Flickr: a photo sharing platform that can be used to search for geolocated photos.
  • Free-OCR.com: the tool extracts text from images which can then be put into Google translate or searched on other mapping resources.
  • Google Maps: an online map providing high-resolution aerial or satellite imagery covering much of the Earth, except for areas around the poles. Includes a number of viewing options such as terrain, weather information and a 360-degree street level view. However, it should be noted that the accuracy may be questioned in the countries where Google has limitated access to geo information.
  • Google Translate App: it can be used to uncover location clues (e.g. signs) written in other languages. The most useful feature is a camera option; you can take a photo of the street sign, billboards and other objects and let the Google Translate interpret what is written.
  • Google Streetview Time Machine: In most major cities, one can use historical streetviews to compare the streets, buildings etc. Very useful for verifying locations shown in the contents from the past.
  • Météo-France: France’s meteorological agency makes freely available Europe focused radar and satellite images, maps and climate modelling data.
  • NASA Earth Observatory: the 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.
  • Panoramio: a photo-sharing website carrying millions of geolocated images uploaded to a Google Maps layer.
  • United States ZIP Codes: an online map of the United States categorized according to ZIP code. Users are able to search for a specific ZIP code, or can explore the map for information about different ZIP codes.
  • Wikimapia: a crowsourced version of Google maps containing points of interest and descriptions.
  • Wolfram Alpha: a computational answer engine that responds to questions using structured and curated data from its knowledge base. Unlike search engines, which provide a list of relevant sites, Wolfram Alpha provides direct, factual answers and relevant visualizations. Particularly useful to assess the type of weather in particular time and location.

Verifying Images:

Is a particular image a real depiction of what's happening?

  • Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer: an online tool that reveals the Exchangeable Image File (EXIF) information of a digital photo, which includes date and time, camera settings and, in some cases GPS location. There is also a useful Chrome extension.
  • Findexif.com: another tool that can be used to reveal EXIF information.
  • Foto Forensics: this website 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.
  • Fuskr: useful add-on to find all the photos with the digital camera default file names (i.e. DSC_0000.JPG) and are uploaded from one device to the same server.
  • Google Search by Image: by uploading or entering an image’s URL, users can find content such as related or similar images, websites and other pages using the specific image.
  • JPEGSnoop: a free Windows-only application that can detect whether an image has been edited. Despite its name it can open AVI, DNG, PDF, THM and embedded JPEG files. It also retrieves metadata including: date, camera type, lens settings, etc.For Mac users, JPEGsnoop works within CrossOver Mac.
  • RevEye: once installed, this Chrome plug-in will let you search not just Google’s image database, but also the databases of TinEye, Yandex, Baidu and Bing.
  • TinEye: a 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.
  • YouTube Data Viewer: created by Amnesty International, it shows a video’s exact upload date and time, and provide a number of thumnail images with an option to search Google for that image.

Other Useful Tools

  • AIDR platform: it uses human and computer monitoring to weed out rumors on Twitter.
  • Ban.jo: aggregates all social media into one platform allowing images and events to be cross-checked against each other.
  • BlackWidow: an investigative journalists’ old timer favorite spider scan tool. Drawing an overview of how the website is structured and search what’s on the site. Pay-for product.
  • CameraV: an app from InformaCam addresses the verification challenge by harnessing metadata to reveal the time, date and location of photos or videos. Users can send their media files, and their metadata, to third parties by using digital signatures, encryption (PGP) and TOR secure servers.
  • Echosec: a location based search. Echosec finds, filters, and analyzes social media information in real time. Paid-for service.
  • Feedly: browser and app that organises and automatises the search and monitoring of news, blogs and Youtube channels. Free tool with premium options.
  • Geofeedia: allows a user to search and monitor social media contents by location. By selecting a location, crowd contents from Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, Instagram and Picasa in this area are gathered in real time. Geofeedia can assist in the verification process, by crossreferencing posts within a particular area to see if details match.
  • Google Advance Search: use search operators and other punctuation to get more specific search results.
  • Google Translate: the ‘Voice recognition” feature can be used to do a quick translation for video/audio verification. If you have a Youtube video in Arabic, use the voice recognition tool to get a rough idea of what’s been said in the video.
  • Gramfeed: search engine for Instagram. Browse by hashtags, date/time, keywords, location and places and visualize the results on a map.
  • HuriSearch: enables the user to search content from over 5,000 human rights related Web pages and easily filter these to find verifiable sources.
  • Inoreader: RSS reader with a few extra features: tag, organise and access content on the web, import feeds from Social Media and customise your own dashboard.
  • Newspapermap: find and translate online newspapers.
  • Pentest Tools: this tool allows one to find subdomain and hidden pages. One can also sneak in and check the published pages that are not yet publicly announced, linked from the visible part of the site.
  • PeopleBrowsr: a platform and tool on which the crowd can monitor and synthesize social media and news into location and time sequence, which can then also be filtered down. The platform also features a credibility score measuring users’ influence and outreach on social networks.
  • PhotoDesk: similar to Gramfeed. Paid app for Mac that allows you to use the regular Instagram features adding a powerful search engine and the option of searching by location.
  • SAM Desk: another popular social media managament tool that allows one to search, curate and collaboratively work on UGC gathering and verification.
  • SearchSystems.net: an international directory of free public records.
  • SocialSearcher: social media search engine, it allows to search for content in social networks in real-time and provides deep analytics data. Free and premium options.
  • Snopes.com: a site dedicated to debunking Internet hoaxes, which can be used to cross-check UGC.
  • Twitter List Copy: this is a simple tool to manage Twitter lists. One can easily copy all users in another Twitter user's list into one of your own.
  • Yomapic: Instagram mapping app. Find pictures by location.
  • YouTube Face Blur: Developed out of concern for the anonymity of individuals who appear in videos in high-risk situations, this tool allows users to blur faces of people who appear in videos they upload. To use, when you upload a video on YouTube, go to Enhancements, and then Special Effects. There you can choose to blur all faces in the video.

Published on: 28 January 2014
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