Case Study Conclusions

This case study shows the benefits of taking a structured approach to monitoring a single incident of this kind, applying Storyful’s methodology of building reliable local sources to follow a story as it develops.

Facebook is by far the most used and most popular social media platform for Syrians. Starting with simple translations of Sweida into Arabic, Storyful searched for local Facebook accounts, including pages and groups, to help with monitoring for updates and the breaking news on the hostages.

These local Facebook pages gave the names of the hostages as a starting point.

Keyword searches also allowed us to source the earliest version of the first video.

Verification of the videos depended on analysis of the accents of the women in the videos, and cross referencing with the names and photos shared by local sources.

Monitoring the story as it developed allowed Storyful to build a level of confidence in the reported identities of the victims and the veracity of the videos.

On October 20, some of the hostages were released. Storyful had an archive of related content available for news partners at that point.

In the case of these 30 people, they were named, and their photographs circulated in local media while they were in captivity. The  ethical concerns around using content of this kind, where individuals are identifiable, were lessened once those people are released and appeared in the Syrian media.

The following considerations applied to Storyful’s reporting:

  • How should the content be archived, so as to avoid sharing IS propaganda?Storyful backed up the material to local servers for sensitive content.
  • Will publishing or making available the content endanger anyone or injure the dignity of those involved? Storyful did not publish the videos for public consumption, but distributed them to partner newsrooms via our newswire service for use in their reporting. An approach to reporting on the story would be to make use of the verified information the videos provide, or to use some aspects of the content the personal stories, for example without using the names, images, faces or specific requests for government aid seen in the videos.
  • Storyful was able to share the content in this manner, with necessary caveats for newsrooms about the kind of available information, and the level of our confidence in that information, helping to inform careful reporting.

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