Lessons in the crowdsourced verification of news from Storyful and Reddit’s Syria forum

at GigaOm: “One of the most powerful trends in media over the past year is the crowdsourced verification of news, whether it’s the work of a blogger like Brown Moses or former NPR journalist Andy Carvin. Two other interesting efforts in this area are the “open newsroom” approach taken by Storyful — which specializes in verifying social-media reports for mainstream news entities — and a Reddit forum devoted to crowdsourcing news coverage of the civil war in Syria.
Storyful journalist Joe Galvin recently looked at some of the incidents that the company has helped either debunk or verify over the past year — including a fake tweet from the official account of the Associated Press about explosions at the White House (which sent the Dow Jones index plummeting before it was corrected), a claim from Russian authorities that a chemical attack in Syria had been pre-meditated, and a report from investigative journalist Seymour Hersh about the same attack that questioned whether the government had been involved….
Reddit, meanwhile, has been conducting some “open newsroom”-style experiments of its own around a number of news events, including the Syrian civil war. The site has come under fire in the past for some of those efforts — including the attempt to identify the bombers in the Boston bombings case, which went badly awry — but the Syrian thread in particular is a good example of how a smart aggregator can make sense of an ongoing news event. In a recent post at a site called Dissected News, one of the moderators behind the /r/SyrianCivilWar sub-Reddit — a 22-year-old law student named Christopher Kingdon (or “uptodatepronto” as he is known on the site) — wrote about his experiences with the forum, which is trying to be a broadly objective source for breaking news and information about the conflict….
Some of what the moderators do in the forum is similar to the kind of verification that Storyful or the BBC’s “user-generated content desk” do — checking photos and video for obvious signs of fakery and hoaxes. But Kingdon also describes how much effort his team of volunteers puts into ensuring that the sub-Reddit doesn’t degenerate into trolling or flame-wars. Strict rules are enforced “to prevent personal attacks, offensive and violent language and racism” and the moderators favor posts that “utilize sources, background information and a dash of common sense.”