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Social media newswire vets user-generated content for reporters

Storyful advances quality journalism and battles disinformation by sourcing, verifying, and publishing content from breaking news stories, and viral videos.
Journalist at Storyful
Journalists collaborating at Storyful

Sourcing verified user-generated footage

When social media lets anyone with a smartphone tell a story, how do news organizations decide which stories are real? Newsrooms — often operating with limited resources — are left to verify footage as it emerges from breaking news stories and identify misinformation.

Storyful, launched in 2009 by Dublin-based journalists, tackles this challenge head on. They act as a “social media newswire,” providing reporters with verified eyewitness news footage and viral video, and helping newsrooms detect false or manipulated content.

“Our mission is to provide trustworthy content and deep context to our news partners,” says Rhona Tarrant, Storyful’s U.S. news editor. “We not only verify footage but also debunk misinformation that often disproportionately targets minority and marginalized communities.”

Rhona Tarrant
Google News Initiative and Google tools help Storyful scale our video authentication capabilities.
Rhona Tarrant
U.S. News Editor, Storyful

Developing an app to fight misinformation

Storyful’s partnership with Google News Initiative dates back to 2015, when the organizations joined together to build on their shared goal of strengthening journalism through digital tools and techniques.

“Our product team and GNI saw a huge opportunity to collaborate on tools to fight the spread of misinformation and misleading content, including manipulated images that push misleading narratives,” says Willa Neal, Storyful chief of staff.

At the 2018 Trusted Media Summit in Singapore, experts from Google, Storyful, and various fact-checking organizations participated in a design sprint to create a tool to detect fake images. They developed the resulting prototype into a mobile-optimized app called Source, powered by Storyful, with support from GNI, the GNI Cloud Program, and volunteer Google engineers.

The Source app uses Google Cloud’s AI tools to give journalists instant access to an image's public history, so they can sort and analyze its provenance, including any manipulation. Source even goes a step further: helps detect and translate text within images — especially useful for journalists analyzing memes.

Originally launched to the fact-checking community in the Asia-Pacific region, Source is now used by more than 220 journalists in 17 countries around the world.

  • 60+ verified videos published daily
  • 500+ newsrooms and publishers have been served by Storyful
  • 220 journalists globally use the Source app for image verification

Training journalists how to verify content and debunk fake news

Storyful has also collaborated with the GNI Training Network to provide workshops. In 2018, Storyful journalists led a five-day bootcamp in Gurugram, India, that equipped local Indian journalists with the skills to debunk fake news — and to teach others how to do the same. As of 2022, that training had been passed on to more than 39,000 journalists, media educators, fact-checkers, and journalism students.

Storyful also leverages GNI resources to train their own employees. “The type of journalism we do is quite uncommon and technical,” says Tarrant. “Over the years, we’ve trained more than 200 Storyful journalists to acquire and verify user-generated content using Google products to enhance our proprietary verification tools. GNI resources help us ensure that we have the latest fact-checking tools and Chrome plugins and extensions.”

Verifying videos and images at scale

Storyful journalists augment the company’s proprietary verification tools with a variety of Google products — such as Google Maps, Google Images, and Google Earth — to quickly source, verify, and publish footage on their newswire.

“Google Earth’s advanced 3D capabilities allow us to geolocate images and give us historical images that can provide a timeline for when footage was shot,” Tarrant says. “We publish about 60 verified videos every day, and the majority use some form of Google tools.”

For example, in the first week after the earthquake that struck Türkiye and Syria in February 2023, Storyful published 153 verified videos of rescue efforts; 130 of these used Google tools such as Google Translate, Google Search (including image search), Google Earth, and more in the verification process.

And during the recent protests in Iran, Storyful reporters verified visuals published to social media from users employing VPNs to circumvent social media bans — such as images of women burning headscarves in Sari — with satellite imagery from Google Earth and geotagged images of a location on Google Maps to confirm where videos were shot.

“GNI and Google tools help Storyful scale our video authentication capabilities,” says Tarrant. “It’s an essential partnership that allows us to bring verified content to newsrooms globally, which we think is a critical mission.”

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