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Read this: Bellingcat answers Elon Musk's 'psy-ops' claim

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Bellingcat answers Elon Musk's 'psy-ops'…

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts hello, this is the media show from BBC Radio 4 hello and welcome this week the founder of the online investor group bellingcat on coming under fire from Elon Musk does the BBC's Beverley you're saying no rowdy on my covering the situation in Sudan is proving hard an open-source investigate a new Osbourne on her work.

Can help with that first home Eliot Higgins over 10 years ago.

He founded bellingcat uses open source technologies to scour freely available information online social media posts webcams and mapping and its lead to high impact investigations into stories such as having a flight mh17 over Ukraine and the Salisbury poisonings and open-source journalism's becoming more and more Central to Hough news organisations do their work indeed this week BBC News

BBC verify which features open source analyst is a team ocean say that I'm part of in my role at BBC News and this month bellingcat investigation concluded that the man who carried out of mass shooting at a text a small was inspired by white supremacists Elon Musk question that investigation first on Twitter then interview last week.

That is ok and that the information for that came from website and was somehow magically found by bellingcat which is a copy that does it is short for psychological operations 13 definition describes this as operations usually aimed at influencing the enemy State of Mind through non-composite means well.

Eliot Higgins has been telling me and the media show.

Body made of the sites allegation of my eyes because it's a lot about it was just this time.

It's coming from the second richest man in the world and the owner of which made a bit of a difference but claims that we've heard around with very little evidence to support it.

What can you do about a claim like that? Well always have an account with trying to be transparent both with our sources, but also the way that we are operating with unders you can go to the bank at website and see audit annual report details about pandas at the work.

We do is transparent use open sources, so people can go and check the evidence and often when you have these kind of claims and allegations.

It's never really about the about work is saying bellingcat.

Is this really back by radial evidence you won't be calling your lawyers and taking action against Elon Musk well.

We've discussed this.

What is an internally with our organisation at the thing is Elon Musk is the second richest man in the world and we were an NGO with a budget of about 2 million Euros a year.

So you know how he can't afford to spend years spicing Elon Musk in a course in a Corsa 8 weeks really I wonder what you make of the fact that you now have one of the world's most high profile people making a mess something that you started 10 years ago in your home in England and now he's making his business Tudor scrutinise and the work that you do and make things about the work that you do this was off the basis of research that we did I mean it was a very simple.

I won't even calling investigation.

It was a simple search on a social media profile the social media profile of a maths tutor.

Hitler swastika tattoo this probably means and said how the operation ideas and claims of being around Birmingham for a long time but they're using the same kind of people who think there's no war crimes being committed by Russia and Ukraine there's no answer and that Ukraine shot down the Legion Airlines flight 17 so impressed me very much and the fact that you know musk is clearly consuming information from that kind of community is really just having reflect badly on him as an individual but leave your side the specifics of that allegation and how it connects to the Texas mall attack there are people who have broader concerns about how bellingcat is funded for example the US journalist Glenn Greenwald has said that your operation is a Shady mouthpiece of elites and he points to the fact that you take money from organisations like the European

And the US national diamond for democracy both of which in different ways have funding that directly connects to National governments.

What do you say to that kind of concern to work that we do and see for example the European Union what about biggest stories in the last few years was project we did with a number of organisations looking at frontex the European unions season Bodmin in illegal pushback singing the Mediterranean this reporting eventually lead to the head of frontex resigning and the front under review in the US something with words and stories like the US bombing and mosque in Syria that was full of civilians that they claim to be an Al-Qaeda meeting location we started you know in a reporting the allies of the US and projects in Yemen looking at dozens of Saudi airstrikes resulting in civilian casualties and the people use you're making these activations are talking about a reporting and the quality of our report.

The evidence we using they just want to wait a kind of attack our reputation.

So they say it is working for the CIA based on no evidence whatsoever and they use that because that they don't like they don't want people to hear well.

Maybe some people don't want to hear what bellingcat has got to say but do not understand people who have reservation some of that work is being funded directly or indirectly by by national governments wouldn't it be easier for bellingcat to position itself within the information ecosystem if you if you weren't taking that I mean for one thing we are funded by the national endowment for democracy anymore.

We actually stopped taking funding from the last May the European Union why did why did you stop well? I'm doing something else to do training in central Asia and Caucasus are four basic the same workshops that we offer to the public just for individuals and organisations, UK

Normally, this is all part of the BBC journalist example and the things that training is out of the price range in Eastern Europe to the Caucasus areas where you know that kind of it expense isn't really something they can afford so we look for grants that allowed to do that kind of work.

So the grass that we do take our focus on training organisations and workshops that we offer to the public and organisations like the BBC have you taken funding from a lot of different sources the open Society foundations, which was founded by George Cross being one.

I wonder what your criteria are for when you do Take the Money and when you don't take the money so we have this published on our websites.

We've actually created stricter and around where we take money from so actually at the moment.

We wouldn't with the new rules that would actually just put in we wouldn't take money from an organisation with National endowment for democracy.

That is funded by the

European Union it's an intergovernmental organisation, so it's not born individual government there's no kind of you.

Look at the you.

There's no bump or see your little policy for European Union so where are you looking for funding but also criteria that we published on our website that anyone can read we no longer or won't take any money from government will avoid taking money from organisations that are solely funded by government as well.

We for example when we doing training workshops as well with people pay for we won't train anyone involved with the police intelligence services.

Government's the only exceptions we make there or when they are directly related to things like child abuse investigations or war crime investigations, but even then we consider that the European Union for example this exerted an influence on the doing.

I would like to present the evidence of that and that but others might be saying there is just simply a risk that Ben and appears to be on side of the argument if it's taking money from an institution like the European Union which is very clearly on one side or the other of some of the stories that you investigate well.

Can you give some examples of that well for example? You're doing work in Ukraine and the European Union has a very clear View on what's happening in Ukraine yes, but I think if you're working like bellingcat does and she's around do I cancel the teeth war crimes.

I think you know there is one server issue is committing a large number for crimes in Ukraine now off and then we get from the European Union is do without working Ukraine but if the eu is on the side of civil rights human rights investigating war crimes then that's the same side.

BBC is on as well.

Can I ask a little bit more about how Ben and Kat finds its information? It's most closely associated with open source investigations and I impression that is the majority of the work that you do, but some of the source material that you use doesn't come from publicly available information in those circumstances.

What are the roots that Ben and cat takes to getting this information that then underpin some of your work, so that would be free sample the work.

We've done on investigating vaccinations of assassination of people like a description of Barney this involves using the Russian dating markets authority reinstate the state collection huge amount of information and the people who work for the state are selling that information to many people so usually.

Going on for years and years and years criminal so buying this or people trying to investigate what they had loved ones are up to you know it is their wife cheating on them by their own records and this was something that it's just part of the production of Russian Society in general, but started using this to get the phone records of FSB office.

It's all people connected to assassinations.

We are just relying on one single source records.

What will have to do is one by one set of Records and then we'll use another source to buy a complementary set of Records and compare them to each other to ensure they been altered cross-reference information possible against open source information of a publicly available information and kind of a triangle that kind of thing where you are accessing that kind presumably there are people on a number stories are investigating who come to you with information that they want to share that they want to leak does that happen to government sometimes speak to give you information to.

Formula investigations it's very rare that anyone comes to us with information usually when they do that with lots of fishing because they have in case in the password people have come to us.

We can clearly been trying to Direction often to do around the topics of looking into the Russian assassinations people in information usually, I think as well.

That's how to make money from the work.

We're doing soap example when we are investigating the down with Malaysian Airlines flight 17.

We had several incidents where people the email saying they put information and the information and I said before I share with you.

You have to pay me a certain amount of money and you know I'm sure that this experience things like this is well.

It's not something that we would know it's not your fault and it's very rare that we actually doing investigations on the information has been provided to us so that information is coming to you, but when you have completed your investigations.

I'm sure what you have is of great interest.

Government's around the world because often the stories are investigating a hugely high profile and of great consequence of have you ever been asked to hand over some of the information that you've got when were involved in things that are example criminal acts and there's an ongoing criminal investigation like mh17 free sample we will share information often as he said we are using open source investigation of the available information anyway with messages organised and analysed in the case of the stuff with the poisoning for example the police are investigating back on if he had any information could show that any spoke to them so if it involves a specific relax into serious relax.

We will consider those requests example we recently done some investigations into the discord leaks whether these documents being shared on discord.

We are dentify the person involved in the FBI approaches to ask one of our services.

Didn't want to be involved first conversations because in our mind it wasn't there was an ongoing risk because they individual was about to be arrested anyway, so we don't want to be involved with that you understand some people who might agree with the overall ambitions of your work, but who are uncomfortable with how closely you work with authorities in some scenarios given that patient like yours would appear to have a purpose authorities are being held to account but I mean we aren't working hand-in-hand with his authorities.

We do our work and then if it's organisations.

They can take that work and use it for themselves so for example when we are working on the dining of Malaysian Airlines flight 17.

We produce a lot of investigative work that really unique and you know any of the movements of the missile launcher where they came from so and so thought we were approached them by lawyers, Who

International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights asking if we could submit evidence to the court, so they could use it in the case, so this is work with you.

Just send alarm people to use it in a case.

It's not like we're going to a government saying hey can we help solve crimes? That's not what we're doing.

We're doing the investigated work organisations want to use that it's up to them that can I ask you about open source investigations more broadly when you started bellingcat.

I hope it's not rude to say this was perhaps anish.

Be there weren't very many people doing it in a very high profile way now bellingcat is incredibly high profile, but there are others also committed to this particular type of Investigation as you alluded to the BBC's launched and you team called BBC verify which is focused on that other big news organisations are doing similar things.

What do you make of the mainstreaming?

What you and others started 1000 years ago.

I'm doing this than your time special investigation team has won the first boots do this and they did a really wonderful job doing that they set themselves inspired news organisations for me a lot of Investigation is not just about saying hey.

This is what we found but explaining the process because I think there are people who are organisations you do investigate shins BBC verify on Twitter example about it because they believe the BBC is very very heavily biased towards the Conservative Party and especially considering they going to be.

You know there are people think like this and at the best way of thing to cancel that is transparent not just seen your findings, but the process that you search it comes to those findings and have you used to the fact that your work is reaching as far and wide as it is we've had engagements that online and not the second richest man in the world is responding person.

I would hope he's got a bad things to do them all the names on you know if you look at the media landscape now, and how are you training particular is being investigated not using open-source evidence with C completely insane even a few years ago.

That wasn't the case.

Now I think often should you train has been issued cast this one use organisational building teams around this but this is going to go on I'm going to go or not.

Just a whole range of different topics.

I hope you know that is a net positive for the world, but evidence based investigation transplant methodology is going to be something huge benefit to everyone.

Would you like the chance to sit down and talk to you and nice? I don't think we have much to say to each other.

I'm sure I'm sure you I'm sure you would be nice to actually be able to sit down with him having an open mind and actually taught him if you listen to what he was saying about Twitter and what he wanted it to be in a list marketplace of ideas where people could you no have freedom of speech in away kind of animal is an answer to a lot of the things he was trying to see the methodologies that we use the transparent sources, but crowdsourcing the supporting organisation building net worth.

Really if he was actually pursuing goals goals.

I think bellingcat the methods we use will be something he be interested in so the fact that the psychological opera based on evidence.

I think it's really disappointing but also a reflection of the media is consuming because it does have a it's been interesting the people responding to comments having a political positions that I think most people be familiar with Higgins bellingcat and the tools and techniques that is organ pioneered an hour feature of newsrooms all over the world and one story where open source techniques are playing a key role of the moment is the conflict in Sudan new Osborne is based in France is from the centre for information resilience which carries out open source research and digital investigations particularly in war zones Louis very welcome to the media show I wonder what you made.

Higgins response to Elon Musk and and the comments about the work that Ben and cats been doing well.

That's pretty much aligned with let's let's just said in the sense that worth reading mattress for organisation is to be able to use available, what is eatable it's to be able to share our methodology which is applicable which is something that anybody can do so well.

It's about transparency.


I want to understand what you do with reference to Sudan in a moment, but let's bring in my colleague.

Beverley or chain.

Who's in Africa and left with BBC monitoring Beverley weather's from Nairobi before we get into open source investigations in Sudan just explain to us.

Beverly what the conflict is about underpinned by a pass Struggle Within the military.

Sudan has been ruled over by 2 minutes away generals that for hon who is the President of the leader of the armed forces and those who matter who is the leader of the support for instance the top of the president in 2019.

They have consolidated power within themselves availability console they over to a civilian government 2021 and those contention about potentially handle that letter, but she's removal and the two men unable to agree on a second point for the security reforms that was the integration of RSS into the army and this led to the escalation of violence in the war between them they started building up the air forces in key towns and cartoon the capital in memory which is an air base and I was in the days.

Just before the water up today.

He just went the expected to find a deal that would ensure that handle power and now there's a full-blown conflict in Sudan Khartoum is the epicentre but of course other.

Baby get better and Beverley what are the practical challenges of reporting this escalation the biggest issue has been very fine information especially where there are limited resources only started opening up to the show was removed from power.

They were number TVs and radios and who's the president open application for now with a conflict there has been damage to infrastructure which has impacted electricity availability some broadcast horses like radio and TV that I usually watch by millions of I'm not available still running but it's Aaron for my propaganda and many times I tend to drop off because of that and availability of infrastructure social media interesting than you initially broken circulating videos of confrontation between the army and RSA and another one particular industry Anthony of the RSS Fighters entering the car to airport and disrupting.

And then was eventually the point where they were fighting for control to be able to send the narrative to the world right now Steve TVs eyring-polanyi propaganda, even though they are steppers occupying in which social media source of filling a gap in different ways the army and the as they claimed as well as people giving information to people in the diaspora and the world and what happened in the Mediterranean on the ground as well as how to mobilise support.

No, let's bring in this point Beverly because Lily was born as you listen to all of those challenges that Beverley describe.

How does open source investigation help overcome those challenges, we tried to go because they struggled to report or sometimes the only people propaganda and so today.

We are relying mainly on a great career.

People in Sweden or people from the diaspora that are getting information of which is going on the ground and posting videos Preston images or going on the type of information.

We tried to verify images with ages by locating them trying to put them on the map and trying to cross check with other sources to make sure that it's really going on sweet candy satellite images.

We are looking at Ramsdens fire on satellite images indication of bombings of getting burnt and all of all of that had purchase actually constitute a kind of for Makro understanding of where the conflict is taking place and what type of incidents are ordering.

Macro understanding, what are you learning from your open source investigations that you think needs to be part of how the world understand this conflict.

There are two main points that are quite important.

The first one is that the conflict did not understood in winter to it's really a truly national complete because we saw at the same time incidents taking place from the start in some stuff for cities and summary heavy and we don't talk too much about them.

Do the second point is do damage to civilian and infrastructure is in place and we have just one month thing to do conflict.

Do thank you very much indeed another dimension of this.

Beverly is how the two sides of communicating with the media.


What the media operations are like at both the government and its opponents Media it is definitely pro army and it gives us a sense of the army control it made statements such as the back of the armies in control of 11 out of 18 States it has been used it's broadcast sauces to my line the rsf by calling them Terrace and a lot of this place after the history of analysis of self as part of the jungle with Melissa that put down the rebellion and down for that has been very political show me get back we have some very high levels of part of it seems to be manufactured at they have been some reports around this during the period of a conflict.

They have robust Twitter and Facebook pages, which have high followings and high engagement the Broad statements delete of rs8000 putting on audio statements to dismiss reports that he is there done that he is not missing in Action and were hung himself the army commander video.

One of him outside the general commander that I'm eating cartoon which is a statement itself was saying how much control there in but they also speaking to pan-arab outlets not speaking to local Media cause I speak into a regional to so who is in power very interesting so they're using the different channels to reach different audiences Beverley or chain from BBC monitoring in Nairobi Louis Osbourne from the center for information.

Thank you very much indeed to both of you now.

I'm going to quickly mention that if any of you listening and hear the hay festival this Friday lunchtime.

You can come along and watch the media show being recorded in the BBC Marquis no ticket required and a man Katie razzall scarce will be good to Harry the former director of communications and Downing Street for Boris Johnson and you'll be able to hear that addition of the media show next week at the usual time.

I should also say the other Radio 4 programmes being recorded at the hay festival you can get all of the details through the hay festival website.

Do you remember all editions of?

Show are available through the BBC Sounds app you can also watch some editions of the media show on BBC iPlayer but for now.

That's it.

Thanks for listening goodbye.

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