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Safeguarding the Amazon with the help of AI

InfoAmazonia used Pinpoint to scan hours of meeting minutes and uncover the facts.

Data-driven journalism in the Amazon

InfoAmazonia investigative reporter Fábio Bispo has spent years building up a network of sources that help him stay tuned into what’s happening across the Amazon. When a local source tipped him off that representatives from large corporations were meeting with indigenous people to get signatures on contracts that gave the companies the rights to sell carbon credits on Amazon land, he sensed that something was wrong.

Bispo wanted to show how companies were misleading indigenous communities in the Amazon to give up the exploration of their forested areas.

“When they signed these documents they were giving up the exploration of their forest areas in contracts worth 30, 40, and up to 50 years, so that these companies could exclusively explore carbon credit there without them knowing it,” says Bispo. “I spent 10 months investigating, and one case led to another. Almost all of them showed signs of violations of the rights of indigenous peoples.”

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“The use of these technology tools, like Pinpoint and many others, enhance the journalist's work, and give us more time to work on what really matters.”
Fábio Bispo
Reporter; InfoAmazonia

Building a case

The key to unlocking the story was the discovery of meeting minutes that broke down exactly what happened in conversations between the companies and the indigenous people that resulted in the locals signing away rights to the land. Bispo discovered this while using Pinpoint — Google’s AI-powered tool designed to help journalists explore, analyze, and search large collections of documents – to search the meeting minutes. Bispo found that International Labour Organization standards had been violated by someone speaking in a meeting.

“Sometimes, when speed-reading a large volume of documents, you miss things,” says Bispo. “We never imagined it would be in the minutes: the proof in his mouth.”

Overtime, InfoAmazonia uncovered dozens of carbon credit projects on indigenous lands. To keep all of the source material organized, Bispo uploaded everything to Pinpoint and classified and tagged important information, making it easier to reference and fact check claims.

“I can use the advanced search engines that we use on Google within the Pinpoint universe, so it's like it really is a mini Google Search of that investigation,“ says Bispo. “[Pinpoint] really accelerated the investigation process.”

“The use of these technology tools, like Pinpoint, enhance the journalist's work, and give us more time to work on what really matters.”
Fábio Bispo
Reporter, InfoAmazonia

Digging deeper

By streamlining the process to identify the most important facts, Bispo was able to devote time to fieldwork, visiting remote communities that weren’t easy to reach by phone or internet. The Amazon region is vast — spanning 7.8 million square kilometers and nine countries and territories — and diverse, home to millions of indigenous people. Devoting more time to in-person reporting helped back up what Bispo uncovered in the documents.

“The use of these technology tools, like Pinpoint, enhance the journalist's work, and give us more time to work on what really matters,” says Bispo.

Ultimately, InfoAmazonia released their findings in a series of reports that gave the Amazon communities critical facts needed to seek reparations.

“I think that in the end, the use of technology will provide these communities with information so that they can demonstrate with evidence that their rights were violated,” says Bispo. “Technology, in the end, will put these communities on equal footing to claim their rights.”

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Screenshot 2024-01-26 1.17.54 PM
Screenshot 2024-01-26 1.19.20 PM
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