An example of fact-checking tweets using Google maps

I was recently sitting in on a lecture for a class I tutor at University when a map, created by Twitter user PetoLucem  was shown on the projector. When asked if this was journalism, someone said that this should be ‘taken with a grain of salt’, presumably because there was no ‘official’ source reporting from within Syria, and thus how could we possibly know if the information is in fact accurate?

Here’s how.

The premise of this map is that SAA forces have liberated the city of  from ISIS rule. How do we know if that’s true? Well, thanks to the open pipeline of production that exists in the exchange paradigm, we the users, have access to all the possible entry points of attack in terms of information credibility and verification.

The following photograph was uploaded by a user named Ivan Sidorenko. It depicts SAA forces supposedly in the newly liberated town of Qarytayn. But how do we know this is true? Aside from the fact he has proven to be a reliable source in the past, how is it possible for us to pin this photograph to a specific location?

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.45.37 AM


The key in this process is to look for things in the image that are not the focus of the image. Look for landmarks, key buildings or key geographical features. Look for anything that you would be then able to recognise using google maps (changes in terrain, a lake, a tall building etc).

The next stage was to go to the town of Qaryatayn on Google Maps and try to identify a key landmark in the image that I could also find on the map.

Having a look around I immediately noticed the landmark that is in the background of the first photograph on google maps as well. By doing some further investigation it turns out that the location of interest is in fact a place called Abu Sinjar shop.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.46.57 AM

Abu Sinjar Shop

And there you have it. That took 10 minutes to verify that the SAA were in fact in Qaryatan as PetoLucem’s map indicated. Normally it isn’t that easy but this time I was lucky.

See you next time.


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