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Credit: Image by Mark Hakansson

Crowdsourcing photo app Scoopshot has unveiled a new automatic verification process for user-submitted images.

The Finnish start-up, which allows news outlets to search for submitted content or set users specific tasks, hopes to eliminate the time-consuming process of manually verifying user-submitted content by automating the process before it reaches clients.

"We actually label the photos with their authenticity factor," Scoopshot's chief executive, Niko Ruokosuo, told Journalism.co.uk. "So within the system you can only search for photos that pass our authenticity criteria and focus on those if you wish."

The authenticity meter, as Ruokosuo calls it, relies on a number of factors to determine the overall 'risk factor': whether the image was taken using the Scoopshot app; whether the user's contact information is provided; and checking the individual file's metadata.

As a final measure of security the files are removed from the user's phone when transferred to the Scoopshot server as part of the initial terms and conditions.

"Because it moves pixel by pixel there is no chance that the file or photo has been edited at all. It really is a 100 per cent representation of what was captured with the camera," continued Ruokosuo.

"As a combination of all of these we keep a rating as to the authenticity of the file and that rating is visible to all journalists accessing the system."

The software has been in use by selected private clients in recent weeks but was not fully unveiled until today. In one recent example, Ruokosuo spoke of how Dutch newspaper Algameen Dagblad (AD) covered a fire breaking out in Eindhoven and published verified images from Scoopshot users within six minutes of asking for submissions.

"We broke our record," said Ruokosuo, although he insisted that some agencies may still manually check images should they wish to, arguing that the software indicates risk rather than complete legitimacy.

Since its launch in 2011, Scoopshot has attracted more than 260,000 mobile users in 177 countries around the world and created a professional photographers' network. More than 50 publications, both digital and print, use Scoopshot to source images from users on the ground.

Andreas Thors, as vice-president of business development at Metro International, noted how Scoopshot has been used to source new stories and complement existing ones in newsrooms throughout his organisation.

Sometimes it may be a light-hearted survey of users predicting football match results, with tasks set by GPS position, but it can also generate stories when users – or 'scoopshooters' – generate stories which the newsroom is yet to hear about.

"You can get more colour on each story," Thors told Journalism.co.uk, "and the same has happened with a few examples of car accidents or train accidents, for example, in Sweden. So that's a good way of not only getting the photo in but calling up the scoopshooter to ask more and what's happening at the scene.

"This sort of crowdsourcing phenomenon has existed for quite some time with the texting number that people can use," he said. "But through this sort of infrastructure you have a good automatic vetting process and security process and fraud protection as to what people can add on to the photos. What's real what's not, that sort of thing, and I definitely think it's going to increase."

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