COVID-19 Social Monitoring Toolkit

provided by Fathm


How do you know what you've found is real?

Any content sourced from social platforms requires rigorous verification — either to spot viral dis/misinformation, or to approve user-generated content (UGC) for publication or broadcast. Every newsroom should agree its own process of verification (and document that process). We suggest two starting points, which can be verified in parallel:

Read below for some strategies for verifying content you’ve found via social monitoring.

Source Verification

Example: The image seen below went viral on social media in India and was widely shared on closed-messaging apps as well. It was circulated with text suggesting that the Indian flag was projected on the Matterhorn in the Alps, as Switzerland showed solidarity towards India in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. How do we find out if the photo is real or fake, in the absence of any fact-checked reports on the Internet?

Start by searching for keywords “Matterhorn Indian flag” or carry out a reverse image search. Through this process you are likely to land on the Instagram page of “Zermatt.Matterhorn” where you will find this image and similar images of flags from other countries beamed on the Matterhorn.

But who is running this account? The Instagram profile suggests that the account promotes tourism for Zermatt and Matterhorn. The blog mentioned on the profile could be a useful place to look for more information.

The image of the Indian flag has been posted there too. There’s also a link to other social media accounts associated with the blog, which may offer useful information about who clicked the image. The Facebook page for the blog too has carried the image on it’s timeline with the names of the two people who are behind the image.

The Instagram accounts of both the individuals carry this image. Besides, the work produced by both these men can be seen at several places online.

The steps followed above helped establish that this is a genuine photo produced by real people and posted through a genuine social media profile.

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Content Verification

After playing Sherlock, if you discover that the uploader of the UGC that interests you is someone who appears credible, you still cannot take that content at face value. You need to verify it to judge whether it is manipulated, fake, or perhaps satirical content. Remember you are ONLY interested in genuine UGC.

Example: Various iterations of the images seen below were predominantly circulated on closed messaging apps in India as the spread of COVID-19 was being reported across the country. The text/audio accompanying these images suggested that the act of licking spoons and touching plates was a deliberate attempt to spread the pandemic by members of a particular religion.

Through a reverse image search these images could be traced to a video that has been on the Internet since 2018 at least. The earliest cases of COVID-19 were reported from Wuhan, China in late 2019. So, this establishes that these images are not linked to COVID-19.

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