Lack of information in a crisis breeds fear. That is why it is essential that authorities, disaster responders and journalists share information quickly, but it’s even more important that the information is accurate. Social media is a double-edged sword in that respect: in every crisis, there is a cornucopia of information on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, but emergencies are chaotic by definition and verifying what you see in your news streams is a huge challenge.
I’ve written about the importance of verifying social media content and tools that can help you with this a couple of times and always keep my eyes open for new, good resources, which is why I was very happy to discover the “Verification Handbook” that was recently published for free as PDF, ePub and Kindle book.
Aimed at journalists and aid organizations, it was written by many very well known authors and I believe that anyone who is using social media for situational awareness should take a look at, including non-profit organisations, UN agencies, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, NGOs and humanitarian organisations.
However, in my opinion, it will probably be more useful for human rights organisations and those with a protection mandate, than for organisations responding to natural disasters. While there is a very interesting chapter on how Open Street Map was used after Typhoon Haiyan, the majority of the handbook focuses on how to verify information at the micro level, rather than how to get an accurate overview over a situation in a larger geographic area. In other words, it’s more helpful if you want to verify whether a video of alleged police brutality during a protest march is accurate and less helpful if you want to collect information for a damage assessment after a storm.
The handbook is a mixture of case studies, tools and recommendations. It’s free, it’s well researched and I think you should get it: verificationhandbook.com