Disinformation Workshop: Tools & Techniques

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Workshop: Disinformation Workshop: Tools & Techniques


Who: Amanda Quinn, Joel Masselink and Leo Senai

Date: Thursday, March 25th

Time: 10:00am EST / 2:00pm UTC+0

Language: English

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Join us for an interactive workshop introducing you to tools and techniques for detecting disinformation. Some of the approaches presented will use geolocation, digital literacy, social media research and web scraping. By attending, learn how to:

  • Differentiate between bots and real accounts on social media
  • Perform more sophisticated search online when verifying information
  • Verify photos and videos
  • Review how far a disinformation narrative has spread online and perform basic analysis on such data.

This is a hands-on workshop where participants will be presented with demos of tools, as well as group and individual activities. In addition, a handout will be provided with further resources and ideas for verifying disinformation.

// We will be hosting a 25 minute post-workshop networking exercise to allow folks to meet others who share their interest, and strengthen collaborations across various lines. Make sure to schedule in 25 minutes extra on your calendar, if you are interested in joining //

Amanda Quinn is a Data and Media Analyst at Creative Associates International in Washington, DC where she develops and implements project activities using media and technology, focusing on elections, conflict prevention, and governance. Prior to joining Creative’s Development Lab in February 2019, she worked on data coding and analysis for conflict early warning and peacebuilding programs in West Africa.

Leo Senai is the Manager of Technology for Communities in Transition at Creative Associates International in Washington DC. His work focuses on leveraging new partnerships and his colleagues' expertise to infuse technology and media programming for projects in governance, stabilization, elections, political transitions, and citizen security. Leo also volunteers on the steering committee for the local coalition, Community Oversight of Surveillance for Washington, DC (COS-DC; @TakeCtrlDC)

Joel Masselink is the Geospatial and Data Services lead with Creative Associates where he provides mapping support and guides data for decision-making in Creative's portfolio of education, economic growth, governance, and civic engagement. Prior to joining Creative, Joel provided mapping and data analysis for international conservation and natural resource management initiatives. Joel volunteers on the board of Tusubira, a nonprofit that supports education and youth empowerment in Uganda.

>> Check out notes from other sessions here


Disinfo Slides

Disinformation Handout

Definitions and Background


  • Disinformation: Information that is false and deliberately created to harm a person, social group, organization, or country.
  • Misinformation: Information that is false, but not created with the intention of causing harm.
  • Mal-information: Information that is based on reality, used to inflict harm on a person, organization, or country.

Key Terms

  • Coordinated inauthentic activity: when groups of pages or people work together to mislead others
  • “Information laundering” – used create a façade of legitimacy around disinformation narratives
  1. Placement: posting disinformation on a website or social media
  2. Layering: spread to more credible sources
  3. Integration: disinformation is adopted by credible news sources or is widely disseminated by real users

Steps for Detecting Disinformation

  • Provenance: Are you looking at the original account, article, or piece of content?
  • Source: Who created the account or article, or captured the original piece of content?
  • Date: When was it created?
  • Location: Where was the account established, website created, or piece of content captured?
  • Motivation: Why was the account established, website created, or the piece of content captured?

Additional reading:

Recent disinformation stories:

The Basics: Verifying Sources and Media

  • Lateral Reading: searching for information about a source while you are reading it. Seeking to understand the perspective and motives of the author/source.
  • CRAAP Method:
  1. Currency – When was the source written and published?
  2. Relevance – Does the source cover the research topic comprehensively, or just one topic?
  3. Authority – Is the author credible? Check credentials and affiliation.
  4. Accuracy - Can facts/statistics be verified through another source?
  5. Purpose – What is the source's purpose (inform, promote, etc.?) Who is the intended audience? Is it Balanced or biased?
  • CRAAP Checklist
  • Additional resources about teaching lateral reading can be found here
  • Web archiving: is the process of collecting portions of the World Wide Web to ensure the information is preserved in an archive for future researchers, historians, and the public. Web archivists typically employ web crawlers for automated capture due to the massive size and amount of information on the Web.
    • The most popular web archive is: https://web.archive.org/
    • Web Archives can be useful tools for research and verifying sources/information, such as alleged social media posts from public profiles.
  • Reverse Image Search: is a feature on most search engines that allows users to input an image and search for matches or similar images. The most common reverse image search engines are: Google, Yandex, Bing, and TinEye
  • A useful tool for conducting reverse image searches online is: RevEye. This is a browser plug-in that you can install (such as on Chrome, Firefox), which allows you to right-click on an image and search it on the 4 sources listed above (Google, Yandex, Bing, and TenEye). It helps save time!

Using OSINT: Twitter and Bot Identification

Manipulated Media and Deepfakes

Geolocation for Verifying Multimedia

  • Verifying a Video:
    • Using only context from the video, what could help you determine where it happened?
      • People: What are they doing? Wearing?
      • Environment:
        • Built: what do the roads and buildings look like?
        • Natural: what’s the climate, terrain, and vegetation like?
        • Signs and Logos: what language? Any specific brands?
        • Vehicles/Transit: what type? Which side of the road?
    • Spoiler:
      • Let’s verify this claim ourselves using geolocation tools.
      • Latitude Longitude coordinates to use: 21.185944, 92.161139
  • Determine and use geographic coordinates:
    • Units are decimal degrees or sometimes degrees, minutes, seconds
    • Coordinates are often listed in Lat, Lon (Y, X) order
    • Latitude: Y coordinate, degrees north (N or +) or south (S or - ) of equator
    • Longitude: X coordinate, degrees east (E or +) or west (W or -) of Prime Meridian
  • Open Source Intelligence geolocation tools:
    • Google vs. OpenStreetMap
    • Street-level photos
    • Satellite / Drone Imagery:
    • Historical imagery: Google Earth Pro (desktop software)
    • Search for coordinates: 21.185944, 92.161139
    • View > Historical Imagery
    • Look at Imagery Date in the bottom right and difference between
      • 1/19/2020: natural riverbanks
      • 1/31/2021: hardened bank, redone road visible

Twitter and other social media posts can be geocoded, i.e. have a location attached to them.

  • This can easily be faked or modified but can be useful for monitoring large events.
  • Use Google Maps to collect coordinates for Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh
  • Search Twitter using the following syntax | geocode:latitude(Y),longitude(X),distance(km)
    • Example | geocode:21.18594,92.16113,0.1km
  • Tips: Only need 5 decimal places for accuracy equivalent to cell phone precision
  • Image metadata:
    • Known as EXIF - Exchangeable File Image Format
    • Useful for verifying geolocation and date/time
    • EXIF is not bulletproof, but is useful for initial assessment
    • location information is often stripped out of photos posted to social media