The role of Open-Source Intelligence in digital investigations

Following the invasion of Ukraine, a growing number of internet users took an interest in OSINT research, causing it to gain mainstream appeal. By utilizing satellite image technology, analysing social media posts and taking full advantage of open-source geolocation tools, some managed to not only form collaborative communities but to also make significant evidence and findings available to journalists and the public. Numerous amateur researchers started voluntarily mapping war-related incidents, reporting traffic jams and military equipment or even monitoring private yachts and jets of Russian oligarchs.

A recent survey by the investigative group Bellingcat, addressed to open-source researchers coming from diverse professional backgrounds, showed that almost half of the respondents conduct online research during their “free time”. It was also discovered that the Google search engine is considered as the number one favourite “tool” of the survey participants.

Meanwhile, organisations such as the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), provide a range of valuable tools and resources for professionals as well as a Citizen Investigative Guide. By operating in a dozen languages, GIJN equips journalists from all over the world with vital techniques and expertise, so they can continue to carry out investigations and expose abuses of authority. More about the role and impact of investigative journalism worldwide will be discussed during the spotlight session “Why Investigative Journalism Matters”.

This brings us to the question; how can anyone start investigating online? With search engines offering countless results, how do you wrap your head around what to write in the search bar? Legendary online search specialist Henk Van Ess will be answering exactly that in his workshop “Investigation and verification techniques: So you think you can Google?”. Having trained NBC News, Global Witness, Buzzfeed, Google, Axel Springer, ITV, and Pulitzer-prize winners from The Wall Street Journal in web investigations and social media research, he can reveal all the useful tips and tricks behind a successful online investigation.

To meet members of the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) and attend the workshop “Investigation and verification techniques: So you think you can Google?” by Henk Van Ess, register to iMEdD’s international journalism week here.