A Venezuelan student at Bournemouth University has launched an initiative aimed at bringing trustworthy news to Venezuela in its time of need.
Social media is filled with information and pictures about the current Venezuelan protests – but after a string of fake images were posted, people do not know what they can believe.
Lycette Peua Scott, 29, and her colleagues have created a place where the public can go to gather trusted and up-to-date news about what is really happening in their country.
“Because of the media censorship in our country, people use social media to gather their information, but people do not always publish the facts on the internet,” said Scott.
Many people know how to use social networks, said Scott,” but people haven’t learnt what to trust” and so can often be fooled by misinformation.
The twitter account @infoConfirmada aims to publish only information that has been checked and to teach the Venezuelan public how to verify the information they get from the internet.
“people haven’t learnt what to trust” – Lycette Peua Scott
With 5,534 followers, the demand for the service is high and the volunteers need to update their news 24 hours a day.
Viviana Otero, a 30 year old a computing engineer and follower of @infoConfirmada, said, “It has become a trustworthy source of information in real time, something that is appreciated in the middle of the information blackout that Venezuelans are living in.”
Co-contributor and political science graduate Karelia Espinoza Tartaret said, “We try to share content with people on site and if it is not possible, we at least verify with some rudimentary tools what is happening at the time somewhere in our country.”
These tools include the use of Google images to authenticate pictures that have allegedly been taken in the Venezuelan unrest. Otero explained further why the service is important to her.
“Sadly, with the immediacy of twitter the distribution of fake, modified or old information has grown. Many twitter users, with their lack of verification, have echoed distorted information.
“With the @infoConfirmada we have the certainty that its publications are about national information that is real and updated,” she said.
Scott said that they are dedicated to transparency and releasing reports that tell the truth about what is happening, with no political agenda.
“The distribution of fake, modified or old information has grown” – Viviana Otero
As the government owns most of the media organisations in Venezuela, some feel that what their mainstream media are allowed to publish, and show on live television, is strongly censored and propaganda driven.
While the ten founders are all supporters of Maria Corina Machado’s opposition party, they say they do not allow this to get in the way of their mission to report everything.
The website is in Spanish and is mostly for Venezuelans, however they do publish occasional English articles.
For people outside of the country who are engaged in these issues and wish to share information, you can also #prayforvenezuela – and those within the area can use #sosvenezuela.
To find out how to verify images yourself using Google images, see the Interhacktives website.