This video showed a puff of smoke above the city of Zhezqazghan in Kazakhstan shortly after a booster on the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft failed.

Here we detail the verification process applied in our newsroom to this piece of user-generated content (UGC).

Mini-series in-depth:

Our mini-series focuses on ‘explain’ videos - they are based on the principles of verification: source, date and location, and are produced to show the audience how these are applied to footage in our newsroom prior to publication.

In this video, we show how we use some of those fundamental verification methods, such as geolocation using open source satellite imagery and metadata analysis of a file, combined with one of the cornerstones of traditional journalism: building rapport with a source.

Source:

When first reports on the location appeared (though still unconfirmed at that moment), we started to look through our internal database of stringers in Zhezqazghan, a rather small city in the center of Kazakhstan with a population of about 150,000 people.

Calling our stringers around Kazakhstan was not successful - although the story was big, our stringers were too far away to travel to the city to film unfolding events.

We then contacted Kazakhstan State TV, who shared a contact number of a local cameraman from Zhezqazghan with us.

Although the cameraman didn’t film anything himself and was not able to travel to the location, he told us that a freelance colleague of his in Zhezqazghan had privately sent him a cellphone video, which the colleague claimed to have filmed.

The cameraman connected us to this colleague, who claimed to us to have authentic UGC video he filmed on her cellphone of the Soyuz rocket exploding in mid-air.

She described the full details of his whereabouts and actions in great detail, and offered to send her UGC footage for us to analyse for verification purposes.  

From this point, we began our verification process.

Firstly, we uploaded the footage to InVid - a platform that provides a variety of services which help detect, authenticate and check the reliability and accuracy of newsworthy files.

Then we scanned Twitter, Facebook, YouTube & VK using keyword searches - in Russian and Kazakh - specific to this video, such as the location, ‘explosion’, ‘rocket’, ‘soyuz’ etc.

We found no duplicates of this footage on social media.

We then resumed our conversation with our source, asking for her location pin and the video file metadata - the location showed Baykonurova St 123, Zhezqazghan.

Date:

We corroborated the event with breaking news tweets. In the meantime, our source also sent us the video metadata, which revealed the time and date that the video was filmed.

Breaking news tweets collected in Dublin, Ireland, record a timestamp of 10:15am.

On October 11, 2018, Dublin was UTC +1 while Zhezqazghan was UTC +6. The time difference between the two cities was five hours.

The video metadata we received from our source read 14:49 - our source’s video metadata showed the video was recorded 26 minutes before the first breaking news tweets were shared on Twitter.

Weather data for Zhezqazghan - partly cloudy - was also consistent with the scene in our footage.

Location:

The source described to us the exact spot where the footage was filmed  – behind Saryarka, a cinema in the city centre.

Google Maps satellite view also showed similar roofs to those visible in the video.