The professional citizen journalists

Written by Juan Palenzuela, Associate

Edited by Harriet Moll, Creative Director

Good morning, Under the sea of coronavirus headlines, you may not have noticed that an important event began in Amsterdam yesterday. The trial formally began of the men who planned the downing of Malaysia Airlines’s MH17, some five and a half years after the plane was shot down over rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Getting to this point has been extremely difficult. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) led by the Netherlands that has been investigating the tragedy has had to overcome a series of hurdles, not least bringing all the remaining parts of the plane to the Netherlands and attempting to rebuild it there. At the same time, a consistent flow of misinformation and alternative theories has to some extent blurred the public’s perception of the events. In a post-truth world, the perpetrators saturated social media with conspiracies. But in the end, it is also thanks to the power of online communities that the trial is now taking place. Using crowdsourced data and evidence from social media platforms, Bellingcat was able to identify the BUK missile system used by separatists and show how it moved through Russia and into Ukraine prior to the accident. Some of the findings went on to help the JIT’s investigation and are now set to be used in the case. Bellingcat is the first of a new breed of open-source intelligence (OSINT) collectives. They rely on volunteers and use crowdsourced imagery and data, often uploaded by the involved parties themselves, to uncover new findings, usually in conflict areas. In another investigation, Bellingcat uncovered the supply of Serbian-made guns from Saudi Arabia to rebels in Yemen. The main source? Videos that the rebels uploaded themselves to social media. Meanwhile, another group of volunteers geolocated child abusers using the photographies that they uploaded online. Their effectiveness has baffled the intelligence community. In 2018, a senior British security official told to the Spectator (referring to the new OSINT collectives) “they’re way ahead of us on many things”. Another CIA officer also told the paper that their methods are “way too innovative for the great majority of lemmings in government”. In a world increasingly overflowing with misinformation, these groups of gritty truth-seeking nerds armed solely with computers and creative Googling skills are something to celebrate.


The prime minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, announced yesterday that emergency measures would be extended to the rest of the country as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak that has severely affected the country. All outdoor gatherings have been cancelled or closed including museums, theatres and cinemas, as well as concerts and sports events. Joe Biden received the endorsement of Cory Booker, who also ran in the primary but dropped out in January. The Biden campaign has received a lot of momentum recently, also with the endorsement of Senator and former primary candidate Kamala Harris on Sunday, ahead of today’s primaries. Over 350 delegates from six states (Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington) will be allocated to the winners in what is known as “Super Tuesday II”. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex made yesterday their last public appearance as active members of the Royal Family. They joined the Queen and other senior officials at the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey. From 31 March, they will stop using their royal titles and receiving public money.

Business and economy

Markets have stabilised after a historic selloff yesterday. Oil prices rebounded nearly 8%, while benchmark stock indices have also modestly surged in China, Japan and Australia. It all comes as a result of expected stimulus measures, which has reassured investors. EU policymakers are reportedly considering using flexibility in its state aid rules to assist EU governments to help them soften the impact of coronavirus on businesses. It is yet another of the widening array policies under consideration to battle the economic damage of the virus. (£) Jingye, the Chinese buyer of British Steel, announced yesterday that it intends to push for the acquisition of the company’s French arm. That French entity owns a factory in Hayange, in northern France. Its acquisition has been delayed by concerns from the French government.

Columns of note

Besides the impact on global health policy, the current Covid-19 outbreak will also be a test for liberalism worldwide, argues Robert Shrimsley. Ideas about open economies, in particular, will have to be sold on directly improving people’s lives, as the outbreak brings into question the benefits of globalisation. The economic downturn that the Covid-19 outbreak is causing needs a global fiscal and public health response, argues the FT’s editorial board. The priority should be to safeguard companies and jobs while also reassuring investors, at least until the virus’ advance starts to slow down.

Source: Charleston Gazette-Mail


What happened yesterday?

Equity markets worldwide plunged yesterday by several points as coronavirus fears rolled on and a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia kicked off at the start of the week. In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 7.79% to 23,851.02, the S&P 500 lost 7.6% to 2,746.56, and the Nasdaq Composite was 7.29% lower at 7,950.68. Across in Europe, meanwhile, Brent crude oil was down by 29.1% at $35.06 a barrel, falling by as much as 31.5% in overnight trading for its largest one-day decline since January 1991, during the first gulf war. The Stoxx 600 was 7.4% lower at 339.64, alongside a 7.65% drop for the German Dax to 10,659.49, while Milan's FTSE Mibtel was plummeting 11.08% to 18,494.02. In the UK, the FTSE 100 was down 7.69% having fallen to as low as 5,891.56, entering what is known as bear market territory following a greater than 20% fall from its previous peak in July 2019.

What's happening today?

Finals Biopharma Cred. Forterra French Cnctn. Gresham H&t Group Plc Informa Lsl Prop M&g Plc Menzies Standard Life Aberdeen Stvg  Team17 Group Simplybiz Grp Ultra Electronics

AGMs GCM Resources Madinet Nasr S UK Economic Announcements (00:01) Retail Sales Int. Economic Announcements (07:00) Consumer Price Index (GER) (10:00) Gross Domestic Product (EU)

Source: FTSE 100, Financial Times

Did you know?

A third of all flight delays in Europe are caused by the French.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons Oral questions Health and Social Care (including Topical Questions) Ten Minute Rule Motion Aviation Banning Orders (Disruptive Passengers) Legislation Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill: Remaining Stages Backbench Business General Debate on Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Women's Health Inequalities Adjournment Step-free access at East Putney Station House of Lords Oral questions Debate International Women’s Day Scottish Parliament Parliamentary bureau motions Topical questions Stage 3 proceedings Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill Appointment of Auditor General for Scotland Member's business Communication Failure?, A Review of the Accessibility of Health Information for Blind and Partially Sighted People.