The CNN investigation team has been monitoring the continuous flow of information from social media using several tools to filter out noise and select relevant videos for our geolocation and verification coverage.
Using Twitter lists of local video aggregators, influencers, and experts from the open source intelligence (OSINT) community, as well as following major accounts on Telegram and TikTok, are the first steps to making sure you stay up to date with everything that comes from the attack.
In the first few days of the Russian invasion, the situation was hectic and multi-front, so geolocation footage turned out to be key to accurately reporting surprise attacks.
Some of the locations included the reported location near Hostomil Airport, about 25 kilometers from Kyiv.
While this video began to spread on social media, it was not yet confirmed that the Russians were anywhere near Kyiv, so it became necessary to try to verify this footage.
It is very important to find where the social media videos were originally posted to understand the context and help weed out the old videos. If a video is first shared on Telegram, for example, it will retain metadata unlike most social media platforms, giving us important information about when and where it was recorded.
The first step is to make sure the video isn’t outdated, so it’s a good idea to do a reverse image search on Google for the key timecodes of the shots.
Another good tip for validating a video is to check if the weather in the video matches the weather reported by the forecast, and we can do this by checking websites like Wolfram Alpha or our in-house team at CNN Weather.
In this case, nothing suspicious appeared in search engines or the weather, which allowed us to move on to the next step: analyzing the visual evidence in the video.
If the footage has any distinguishing features such as a church or monument, it will be possible to crop the image and do another Google search to find the location.
Or, as in this case, the hallmark is a yellow building – a factory of some sort with a smaller roof structure at the top. In the foreground, there were two white houses and a large flat gray building to the right, along with a low blue building.
Looking at Google Earth, there was only one option where this arrangement was possible, not far from Hostomel Airport.
We built a panorama using screenshots from the video and used colored shapes to match similar buildings.
It is important to consider the date these images were recorded in case of new additions to the area. And if there are recent satellite images of the area, all the better.
Active fire data from NASA also provides data on which areas have been hit by fire.
After geolocation of the footage, Ukrainian authorities confirmed that they had shot down a helicopter in Hostomil.
We sent the geolocated footage to Matthew Chance of CNN who was stationed nearby and we immediately flew to Hostomel Airport.
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