Bellingcat, a true collective of citizen journalists, uses data accessible to the general public to conduct investigations. Syrian conflict, poisoning of a Russian double agent or even destruction of a commercial flight, the platform is fighting for the truth on all fronts.
Open source information
Behind Bellingcat is a British blogger: Eliot Higgins. After revealing the weapons used in the Syrian civil war, he organized a fundraising campaign to launch his own citizen journalism platform in 2014. Five years later, Bellingcat brings together several international researchers and journalists whose mission is to conduct surveys based on the "open source" information they have at their disposal (social networks, Google Earth, videos, etc.). The site has become a benchmark for fact-checking, it covers all sensitive subjects, from armed conflicts to drug cartel practices. Far from going unnoticed, this new form of citizen investigation can claim to have won the Hanns Joachim Friedrichs Award in 2015, a prize for journalistic excellence.
“Every citizen has a role in the fight against fake news.“
Bellingcat's very first investigation was conducted in 2014. Following the in-flight destruction of a Malaysia Airlines aircraft attributed to the Ukrainians by Russia, the members of the group managed to uncover the truth about the case. Their conclusion that a Russian anti-aircraft missile fired the flight MH17 was validated by Dutch investigators which helped to resolve the mystery around the crash. Shortly afterwards, new revelations broke out, this time concerning the use of Russian artillery against Ukrainian villages. In 2018, Bellingcat's citizen journalists once again hit the headlines with surprising revelations about the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter. The group managed to unmask three of the suspects in this case and identified them as senior Russian intelligence officers. Information confirming London's suspicions that Moscow was hiding behind this attack. But Bellingcat's main investigative work concerns the war in Syria. Throughout the conflict, the platform multiplied revelations: the use of chemical weapons against civilians, the use of cluster munitions and the bombing of hospitals by Russia.
Citizen and journalist in the making
For Bellingcat members, every citizen has a role to play in the fight against "fake news". This is why the platform offers budding journalists the opportunity to participate in surveys using data accessible to the general public. To this end, it provides a toolbox containing all the digital media necessary to carry out these investigations, such as satellite and mapping services, verification tools for photos and videos as well as databases of public publications on social networks. A set of accessories allowing any citizen-journalist to conduct his own investigations and participate in the restoration of the truth.
Bellingcat: A new tool for citizen investigation