The International Journalism Festival 2014 panel discussed verification and user generated content, and explored the legal responsibilities to newsrooms dealing with UGC. Verification is very hard and with it comes great responsibility:
Claire Wardle Tow Center for Digital Journalism
Fergus Bell social media editor Associated Press
Sam Dubberley Tow Center for Digital Journalism
Matteo Jori University of Milan
Caroline Bannock Guardian Witness
THE Tow Center has carried out a nine month research project on how user generated content being used by news in print and on air. By UGC we mean ‘photographs and videos captured by people unrelated to the newsroom, who would not describe themselves as professional journalists’.
The data capture was from eight channels between 25 Nov - Dec 2013 1,164 and 10 minutes of broadcasting and 2,254 webpages. The first report was released last week. 64 interviews with news editors from 38 news organisations in 24 different countries making it a research project that does not focus on the UK/USA axis, according to Sam.
Discovery and workflow
Claire: Because of Instagram, Youtube, Twitter this means that newsrooms have to go and find that work. It means trawling through Facebook and it takes too long: so they rely on the agency (Reuters or Storyful) ‘we pay them so they should be doing it’. The BBC has a special unit - the hub - other newsrooms could not have that. They would have one person in Arab who trawls through it. They also rely on the agencies as an insurance policy as well - in terms of verification and checking. Agencies are playing a huge role when it comes to social media content. This is about accidental journalists and most newsrooms five years ago were quite dismissive, but now the best content can be coming from the person who is there on scene.
‘they want us to be the insurance policy especially on the foreign stories actually the ones from the middle wast from Asia’
‘arguable thats the best way of getting UGC that somebody else has done the work for you because that’s what we pay them for’
Fergus: we don't have anyone in Syria so we are sourcing UGC from Syria all the time but we are not the experts; we have to communicate with Beriut offices who translate audio and a verification case for that. As for advice for others, you can’t be across everything all the time but you can scale it up at any time.’
Fergus Bell ‘we work with all the resources we have’
Caroline Bannock: we wanted a platform that was going to enable users to share content with us. we send out call outs for people to share their content. Sometimes we are looking for stuff. Sometimes we target communities as much as individual stories. It is about finding ways to share stories with us because they trust what they do with it. We got an amazing image during Thatcher’s funeral from Edinburgh - an empty screen - its about the amazing multiple perspectives, different parts of the story.
‘we can use it in the Guardian’s journalism’
Claire: During Hurricane Sandy it can be people trying to help you. It can be photographs that are taken at the wrong time. It is a difficult process and what was shocking to us - I do a lot of forensic training to check - most journalists have no awareness of what geo located a reverse image search have you spoken to the uploader and asked them if it’s theirs. Journalism has always been about fact checking this is just slightly different fact checking. Google reverse image search (the image icon on the search). Twitter geolocates their tweet if you click on it you will get an arrow. In Facebook users can choose where they set where the image has come from.
Fergus: verification is all about setting yourself up for it and integrating workflows. I would never say 100%. If I had a serious doubt there is no reason to send it out as there is no value in someone getting something partially verified. We have never made a mistake with UGC - we might be a bit slower.
Legal brain, Matteo Jori University of Milan: when there is a disclaimer saying it’s not ours then that does not protect you if you are redistributing it. I am pleased to learn there is detailed verification of sources and content. The greater the activity in verification the greater the responsibility in redistributing it; this might sound paradoxical.
Fergus: ’with great power comes great responsibility’ an unverified youtube video is rumour until it has been verified, so we are not scared by this but we do need to be taking it very seriously. It’s not just a should but now a legal step’.
Fergus - I like to get into the head of the person that has been uploaded. Could that person have been in that place at that time and building up a case. Caroline: it is about building up a profile of that user and if they have an agenda.
Claire: the new Twitter profiles you can’t photoshop the blue verified tick and the date they joined. These two help. youtube: often the original video has very few clicks - scraping is a massive problem with people downloading and reuploading videos. There are often hundreds of versions of the video.
Copyright and rights
Very few newsroom understood what they need to do in terms of crediting. We don't credit Reuters why would we credit someone else when we are not required to do it? Only 16% of UGC during our study had an onscreen credit. It is not about payment they just want accreditation/attribution. Broadcasters do understand they need to get permission to use this - can we use your picture - but that isn't turning into a credit. Which is odd as they have done the hard work. There is a difference between saying it is from someone but lots of it is not described as such. So the audience doesn't know it wasn't filmed by a broadcasters camera. Very few said it was activist video or bystander - eyewitness, activist, there is an issue of transparency with who you are and what you are doing and that is not being shared with the audience. Al Jazeera have made a decision to call it activist footage.
Guardian think it is a moral responsibility so we have built into the CMS the credit, author and description and in tact put into our journalism complete with Guardian witness furniture.
Fergus: they ask for legal clarification not just Twitter ‘OK’ - some people don't want to because they think it will put people off.
It’s subtle with Twitter in terms of embedding - it comes with all the furniture so journalists don’t think they need permission for this - and they don’t: embedding without asking for permission is perfectly valid. When someone signs up for Twitter they have the right to redistributed.
Ethics and responsibilities
There was a great coastguard sos Tweet @skynews asking people to stay away from the coast - when newsrooms were happily asking people to go to get pictures. Uploaders and their staff, health and safety . Guardian has a safety first policy. Bambuser was one of the ways to get video out of Syria - we always say we are not going to organise specifically times and places. If I can work out if someone is on top of a building in a dangerous situation trying to get out rebel footage then I won’t publish that - it’s too dangerous. If you ask people to send you content and they get hurt -it is different between asking for content that has already been shared and asking for processing. one is the opposite of the other. If I ask then I am commissioning then I can have the right to have it (simplifies the rights to the authors) but there are serious responsibility because of all the risks. The smaller newsrooms would ask for UGC in smaller stories and they haven’t necessarily thought of the implications. If people change their mind, even after a contract, then I would take it down.