My book review of 'We Are Bellingcat' by Eliot Higgins
The author is the founder of a collective of self-taught internet sleuths who have been able to solve some of the biggest crimes of our time. Their findings have all been based on clues gained from the internet - social media postings, leaked databases, satellite maps. "Paradoxically in this age of online disinformation, facts are easier to come by than ever," he says.
Higgins worked from his kitchen table initially, frustrated at not having the career he wanted and dismayed at world events. He started surfing the internet to find answers to satisfy himself, interrogated the disinformation and investigated war crimes, and recorded what he learned in a blog.
In this book, he describes how he build his network of like-minded individuals and how they uncovered the truth behind the Skripal poisonings in Salisbury, the downing of Malaysian flight MH17 and sourcing of weapons in the Syrian Civil War. Much of their work has been investigating Putin and the Assad regime.
The Bellingcat method is founded on transparency, he says. Its motto is 'Identify, Verify, Amplify'. They are not journalists, activists, computer scientists, researchers or criminal investigators, though they work in all those disciplines. The strength of this open-source investigation is in collaboration, he says. And he highlights how in many countries, "citizens are mobilizing to fight disinformation and push back against the Counterfactual Community." It's fascinating, inspiring, liberating and vital.