Citizen journalism has faced one major obstacle that has prevented it from going totally mainstream: Source verification. This is an issue that I have discuss frequently with my friend and former classmate Torsten Mueller, of MundusMedia in Germany, who is hoping to find solutions to this problem. As a Poynter blog noted, breaking news often hits Twitter first and then spreads to the mainstream media.
But now, teams of researchers are creating methods to help verify sources:
Late last year, a team of researches at Duke University (alongside a researcher from Microsoft) announced the creation of YouProve. This is an Android based system that I fear may not gain traction simply because it may lead to privacy issues.
Poynter also points to the work of Rutgers researchers.
*Again there is a team member who is a Microsoftian. I have manually verified that she was formerly a Rutgers Post Doc. And if I didn’t fear New Jersey so much, I’d try to meet with this team on their home turf, but perhaps I can coerce them to join me in New York for a bit.*
I suspect that verification has been a problem for citizen journalism sites like London-based photojournalism agency Demotix (that took an undisclosed investment last year from Corbis, which is privately owned by one Bill Gates) and Citizenside (that took an investment from AFP in 2007).
However, questions of privacy still remain, as verification also means that one’s personal information could/should be compromised for the sake of authenticity. This could lead to problems for anyone who hopes to be an anonymous source, especially sources based in America or in countries with oppressive regimes.