Social media search platform Banjo Discovery is now available to journalists for free, enabling them to monitor a location for geotagged posts and find eyewitnesses at the scene of a story.
Journalists may be familiar with the Banjo app, a useful tool for keeping an eye on events in your local area.
Since launching, Banjo has mapped the earth, recording what each location looks like on social media on a usual day, and built a technology that can alert users to any changes in this activity, such as a flurry of posts about a breaking news event.
Discovery relies on this "crystal ball", a technology previously available through the paid-for 'enterprise' version of the platform, said Stacey Epstein, Banjo's chief marketing officer.
"If any industry needs to know exactly the time, the location and the context of an event, it's media," Epstein said, explaining why Banjo Discovery is being released for free to journalists today.
Discovery is designed as a desktop dashboard that does not have to be constantly monitored by journalists, said Victor Hernandez, Banjo's newly appointed director of media innovation.
Having previously worked in newsgathering and with emerging technologies at CNN, he said the process around sourcing and verifying material from social media was "labour intensive" and involved a lot of "moving from platform to platform".
"[On Banjo] There are lots of safety nets in terms of features and triggers there, where as you're looking in the right places, they will begin to funnel into your view."
He said Banjo Discovery can serve as a "one stop shop", allowing journalists to "hone in on the signal, filtering out a lot of the extraneous noise that is not nearly as important as what's coming from the scene".
Searching by time and location, screenshot from Banjo.
Reporters can use Banjo Discovery to search through busy hashtags on social media and find the posts that actually originate at the scene, for example.
The Banjo team does not verify the posts before including them on the map, but Hernandez said geotags alone already inspire more confidence.
"Because the content coming through Banjo is geotagged, there is therefore that much higher probability that [it] is less likely to be photoshopped or some other concerns that crop up early during news events," he explained.
"Often these sorts of nefarious activities and photoshopping and other things that are real pitfalls in our coverage are coming from other parts of the globe while everyone else is dealing with the crisis or whatever's happening in the breaking news event."
Banjo Discovery still includes some paid-for premium features on the platform that require users to sign up, but the search functions, including geofencing are available without payment, although the size of the patch is limited in the free version.
Another handy option is a 'rewind' feature that enables reporters to investigate an issue over a certain period of time and search for posts published in previous days.
"A lot of the tools that are available today will attempt to pull in the most recent posts from a scene...
"But to be able to go back much deeper in time and connect some dots and look for players within a story that you may wish to speak with that were there in the days leading up, is really quite an interesting proposition," said Hernandez.
- Learn more about other tools and techniques for finding and verifying eyewitness media at Journalism.co.uk's upcoming news:rewired 'in focus' event on 21 October. Check out the speakers and reserve your place here.