Bellingcat is transforming investigative journalism with open-sourced information

The independent news collective is teaching a new generation of journalists and citizens to spot the stories in plain sight.

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  • Bellingcat has used open sources, such as satellite maps and social media posts, to unmask Russian spies and solve mysterious plane crashes.
  • The independent news collective blends the investigative methods of citizen journalism with the guidelines of a traditional news outlet.
  • It hopes to make open-source investigative techniques mainstream, setting an example in our era of vast data and "counterfactual communities."
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    What democracy and science demand: The ‘Smartmatic vs Fox News’ case

    The opening lines of Smartmatic's $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News lay bare the culture of denial in the US.

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    • Smartmatic, an election technology company, has filed a $2.7-billion-dollar defamation suit against Fox News for making false claims about its voting machines during Fox's dishonest campaign against the 2020 US presidential election results.
    • The lawsuit opens with three powerful statements of fact: A scientific truth, a mathematical proof, and an objective political fact: More people voted for Joe Biden than for Donald Trump.
    • We owe the Smartmatic lawyers a debt of gratitude for so cleanly demonstrating what this ongoing election battle is all about. What is at stake is not a political ideology. It's a fight to acknowledge the shared reality we all live in.
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    Study: Personal anecdotes are more effective at bridging divides than facts

    Most people believe you can win an argument with facts - but when "facts" are so often subject to doubt, are personal experiences trusted more?

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    • A new study has found that people are more likely to get respect from others in moral and political conversations when sharing personal experiences instead of facts.
    • The research group conducted 15 separate experiments to test this theory in order to learn more about tolerance in specifically political arguments.
    • The effectiveness of facts in these conversations (even when proven true) is unclear because facts themselves are now subject to doubt, especially surrounding controversial and polarizing topics such as gun control and political beliefs.
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    Were there "early warning signs" of COVID-19 on Twitter?

    Could we have predicted COVID-19 through social media trends?

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    • The first human cases of COVID-19 (subsequently named SARS-Cov-2) were first reported by officials in Wuhan City, China, in December 2019. The first cases of the virus in Europe were discovered at the end of January 2020.
    • Although there were really no preventative measures that could have completely stopped the pandemic, a new study takes a retrospective look at the months preceding the rapid spread of this virus.
    • Researchers suggest that, in a successive phase of the pandemic (or any pandemic), monitoring social media could help public health authorities mitigate the risks of a contagion resurgence.

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    FOSTA-SESTA: Have controversial sex trafficking acts done more harm than good?

    The idea behind the law was simple: make it more difficult for online sex traffickers to find victims.

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    • SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) and FOSTA (Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) started as two separate bills that were both created with a singular goal: curb online sex trafficking. They were signed into law by former President Trump in 2018.
    • The implementation of this law in America has left an international impact, as websites attempt to protect themselves from liability by closing down the sections of their sites that sex workers use to arrange safe meetings with clientele.
    • While supporters of this bill have framed FOSTA-SESTA as a vital tool that could prevent sex trafficking and allow sex trafficking survivors to sue those websites for facilitating their victimization, many other people are strictly against the bill and hope it will be reversed.
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