With your networks in general, it may be useful to have an ongoing list of the sources that provide you with information online (directly or via social networks), adding comments that highlight their reliability and credibility. You will have a comprehensive list of sources you can turn to and trust during the verification process. Remember, authenticate the sources first!
The same networks that provided you with information can also help you verify that information. If you are still questioning the validity of the information collected there are three types of networks you can tap into to assist you in the verification process: social networks, trusted ground networks, and trusted virtual networks.
Online Social Networks
You can use your social networks to ask questions about your information to get a sense of how likely or unlikely it may be. Ask people what they think, what they know about that area, or if they know anything about that information. The online community can also help you translate, cross-reference, and track down key information.
When tapping into your social networks to ask specific questions about an incident or place, start by looking for trends or groups within the network. For example, Twitter uses hash tags (#) to draw attention to a particular thing. Facebook has pages or groups in support of particular causes. This tactic will allow you to narrow your search and extract a more direct answer as you are engaging with people are already aware of the issue.
Remember, when engaging with social networks, never give any indication of your source and if the information is not already public, avoid providing specific details. This will protect both you and your source.
Trusted Ground Networks
When verifying information online the use of an offline network can be very helpful as it can be your eyes and ears on the ground. Members of this network should only be people you trust and know personally. This network is also subject to a considerable amount of risk, so take careful security and privacy considerations before asking them to verify information on the ground.
For more information on how to protect yourself online, see Nabz Iran’s course on digital security.
Trusted Virtual Networks
To create this network, ask your trusted ground network for contacts they have vetted and know personally. You can then connect with these individuals through online platforms such Google Hangout, Google Groups, encrypted emails, or Skype (although Skype can be vulnerable to monitoring by third parties, so be cautious).