Citizen journalists revalutionize the concept of online opensource investigation in Bellingcat – Truth in a Post-Truth World. Bellingcat is a collective of “citizen investigative journalists,” founded by Elliot Higgins in the UK. Featuring volunteer members from all across the world, Bellingcat uses social media to help with various investigations, ranging from the MH17 disaster to the Syrian civil war. In a world filled increasingly with fake news, citizen journalists like these have become increasingly important.
In Bellingcat – Truth in a Post-Truth World, Dutch filmmaker Hans Pool follows a group of citizens around the world, who are part of the collective Bellingcat, with the name being a play on the phrase “belling the cat.” The member includes founder Elliot Higgins in the UK, Aric Toler in the US, Timmi Allen in Germany, Hadi Al-Khatib in Syria, and Christiaan Triebert in the Netherlands. The film primarily uses the MH17 incident, where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a Russian missile, as the film’s primary case study, to show how Bellingcat pools their resources to find the truth.
We are living in an era, where the general population has come to distrust mass media. What differentiates Bellingcat from other media outlets is how the collective has set out to generate trust through complete transparency. However, the downside to citizen journalist is that these individuals aren’t granted the same protection as major news outlets, making it difficult for Bellingcat to combat any legal action. Either way, Bellingcat – Truth in a Post-Truth World is a very interesting look at the evolution of media, which includes the need preserve information from social media, which is invaluable in these investigations.