Book Review: We Are Bellingcat

We Are Bellingcat: Global Crime, Online Sleuths, and the Bold Future of News

by Eliot Higgins

Written by the Bellingcat organizations’ founder, Eliot Higgins, this book highlights the effect of open source investigation upon crimes and how they are reported. That’s the simplistic version.

Higgins initial interest in the Libyan conflict after the fall of Ghadaffi propelled him along a path toward a respected and sought after expert. Compelling in the implications of open-source research, the author details how Bellingcat grew from a microcosm of dedicated investigative (unpaid) hobbyists, and gathered along its journey a crew of volunteer sleuths, regular blog contributors, people both inside and outside of agencies, and citizen journalists.

Higgins states, “I knew with absolute clarity that our work must stand in opposition to the worst traditional journalism. Our sourcing would remain as open to public scrutiny as possible.” All of this Bellingcat strives to provide without political agenda.

Open source (for the non-geeks among us) is any information that anyone can access on the internet including: videos, tweets, Instagram photos, Facebook posts, Google Maps, government documents, and more. So. much. more.

Researching involves confirming information from several sources which, unlike traditional journalism, require naming the source. In fact, Higgins says, “We always seek ways to engage citizens in open source investigation.” Bellingcat offers training courses for serious citizen investigators who want to get a deeper understanding of its methods.

Digitized documents, videos, and social media posts by individuals, governments, business and military organizations, continue to be readily available and accessible by anyone with internet access. Whether these sources are the result of nefarious saboteurs out to ruin reputations, whistleblowers attempting to expose corrupt business practices, organizational propaganda, or that all-too-human behavior of sharing our lives online, these combine to act as open source reservoirs from which Bellingcat participants glean truths.

Most riveting are accounts of how Bellingcat helped to crack cases like the downing of flight MH-17 over Ukraine, the Skirpal poisoning/assassination attempt, Russian interference in United States elections, and the impact of artificial intelligence. A copy of this book should be on your bookshelf.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Interesting read!

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