OSINT Blog / Post

July 17, 2024

Fake News: Challenges and Solutions Using Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)

A major challenge for OSINT is the spread of fake news. Fake news, by definition, is information packaged to look legitimate but has little or no truth to it. Its danger lies in its use of sensationalist language meant to appeal to its audience’s emotions so that they are led to believe and, more importantly, spread it. Most fake news is first published onto obscure websites or social media pages, and then spread online, first by supporters and then by unknowing bystanders. 

This can be a nightmare for digital investigators seeking truthful information about a person or business because it can be hard to tell fake from real. If people are unable to tell the difference, then how can a computer software? A combination of OSINT and a human perspective can be a helpful duo when sorting out fake news from real information. If an investigator wants to know information on a specific business, they can run a Skopenow search, extract a full digital record,  sort through the information, and decide what is real and what is fake. If the investigator knows of a particular site or topic that is involved with fake news and might come up in the search, they can use Skopenow’s keyword function to highlight all mentions of that source. Once the profile of an individual or group spreading fake news is found, they can use Skopenow’s monitoring feature to continue to track the type of misinformation that a user shares.


Man sits on a bench holding a sign that says "Fake News? Decide for yourself. #Pizzagate"


For example, consider “Pizzagate,” the now-debunked 2016 fake news scandal that connected a few Democratic political party members with a pizzeria in Washington D.C. and human trafficking. It was discredited in late 2016, though not before the story was widely spread on social media and other news sites. In a hypothetical case study, a firm wants to investigate the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria. They decide to collect all available information about the pizzeria on the open web; however, they know that they will have to sift through all of the Pizzagate news articles, social media posts, and mentions on the internet. Using Skopenow for OSINT, the firm could enter “Pizzagate” and related terms as keywords, and then each source that includes one or more of those keywords would be highlighted. This way the firm can flag information that might be fake news and not credible for their investigation; likewise, they could use that information to potentially flag followers of a conspiracy theory.

Continuing with the same example, let’s say that a firm during the Pizzagate scandal wanted to track the spread of fake news. They could use Skopenow to track all mentions of Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria in conjunction with Pizzagate and related terminology to see what news sites and social media pages had posted or mentioned this story. This example of Pizzagate and the application of OSINT could easily be applied to other fake news cases or any information spreading across the open web. 

OSINT software like Skopenow can help your business separate fake news from credible sources, as well as track the spread of an unreliable story. 

Skopenow is an analytical search engine that uses social media and open web data to provide actionable intelligence. Skopenow's platform identifies, collects, and analyzes public information on people and businesses by scouring millions of sources and data points. While Skopenow is built for use in insurance, government, and law, the product is also highly applicable in HR, real estate, and education.