When news agency Storyful opened in Dublin in 2010, it took on the onerous task of validating some of the seemingly endless stream of content coming from social media platforms like Twitter. Eight years on and that stream of content has only gotten bigger - while the number of platforms has grown as well. To adapt to that the company has unveiled an updated version of its Newswire - the platform used by journalists to find verified social media content for use in news stories.
"When we launched the first social newswire eight years ago it was a very different environment to how it is today," said Storyful's global chief creative officer Lisa McDonald. "We've seen the environment get far more complex and social media is now so important as a news source for journalists - and for the public at large."
While there was no shortage of deceptive content eight years ago, much of Storyful's early focus was in verifying the details of content - for example when and where a video was created. Now, however, there are entire industries dedicated to the production and distribution of deceptive content. "It's becoming increasingly volatile - we're seeing the weaponisation of bots, new technology and platforms and the weaponisation of fake news, which is making it increasingly challenging for news organisations," Ms McDonald said.
Storyful sees new challenges for news organisations pic.twitter.com/5DliqqOEUJ— RTÉ Business (@RTEbusiness) September 13, 2018
Not only is the volume of content greater than ever, so is the number of places that it can originate from. This means Storyful needs to stay across the mainstream platforms of Facebook and YouTube as well as niche areas like 4Chan and Gab. To achieve this Storyful deploys a mixture of technology and old-fashioned sleuting - with programmers working with journalists to identify viral online content.
"Our product team are dedicated to creating tools to help our journalists track conversations and content across communities, from fringe networks into mainstream," she said. "There's a lot of trade craft from a journalsitic perspective but that's paired with that technology - and literally they're sitting side-by-side in order to develop that technology."
While Storyful's roots are in the news industry it has also begun to spread its focus out towards companies as well - offering the same kind of information about trends that may be important to brands. "The same practice that our journalists take in finding disinformation, finding intelligence around breaking news stories, we've found there's a need for that in a brand context," Ms McDonald said.
She said that fake news was increasingly a problem for companies trying to get their message out - citing Nike's recent marketing campaign featuring NFL player Colin Kaepernick. "It's particularly an issue within the pharma industry; we're seeing fake news and disinformation become increasingly a problem for them - particularly around the issue of vaccines," Ms McDonald said. "So we've turned our expertise to help brands combat and operate more effectively in that environment," she added.
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