One of the most striking things about Bellingcat’s success is that — at least up to this stage — its investigative methodology is (to use a cliché) not rocket science. It’s a combination of determination, stamina, cooperation, Internet-saviness, geolocation (where did something happen?), chronolocation (when did it happen?) and an inexhaustible appetite for social-media-trawling.
Probiv is material that is nominally meant to stay private or secret and thus is not, strictly speaking, open source. Its increasing role in Bellingcat’s investigations has nudged the organization toward the tactics of traditional intelligence agencies and journalistic outfits—both of which, to varying degrees, make appeals to the individual motives of those who provide them with information. In some cases, this has worked to Bellingcat’s advantage. Grozev said that, for every source who has gone silent, others are growing more interested in aiding his investigations. “If the level of discontent inside the system continues to go up, the drying up of the market won’t matter as much.” When I spoke with Higgins, he relayed that one of the brokers who provided data for the Navalny investigation got in touch after its release, telling Bellingcat, “We now know who you are and we’re glad to be able to help.” Higgins said, “It was actually quite touching.”
As of this guide’s publication date, the undisputed leader of reverse image search is the Russian site Yandex. After Yandex, the runners-up are Microsoft’s Bing and Google. A fourth service that could also be used in investigations is TinEye, but this site specializes in intellectual property violations and looks for exact duplicates of images.
What we see here is evidence of the only real innovation 8chan has brought to global terrorism: the gamification of mass violence. We see this not just in the references to “high scores”, but in the very way the Christchurch shooting was carried out. Brenton Tarrant livestreamed his massacre from a helmet cam in a way that made the shooting look almost exactly like a First Person Shooter video game. This was a conscious choice, as was his decision to pick a sound-track for the spree that would entertain and inspire his viewers.