Although citizen journalists cover unheard stories, their accuracy is under scrutiny with a new app being developed to check the validity of their footage.

With easy access to technology and without the reputation of a news organization to uphold, citizen journalists can publish viral content within minutes, despite its accuracy. Unlike professional journalists, they aren't trained in copyright or media law, particularly defamation, and may break these laws without realising. They aren't bound by the responsibility of upholding democracy and being a watchdog of the government. And while completely objective and unbiased media is virtually impossible, they aren't trained to be balanced and report both sides of the story. Most importantly, they don't even have an obligation to be credible.

But Bogdan Carbunar, an associate professor at the School of Computing and Information Sciences at FIU, is trying to change this. Along with two graduate students, Carbunar is developing a new app to check whether cell phone footage is genuine and to counteract this fear of citizen journalists publishing false content.

Eliot Higgins
With this said, there are some benefits of citizen journalism. Journalists cannot be everywhere, while citizen journalists can. While lack of regulation can be seen as a downside to citizen journalism, it can also be positive. Citizen journalists are not censored and can create stories which would otherwise be impossible to capture or simply ignored by large news organisations.

Looking specifically at the Syrian war, reporting from the ground was difficult and dangerous, leading to the brutal killings of two american journalists. But blogger Eliot Higgins, working from his home in Leicester, detected the use of cluster and barrel bombs by the rebels and worked with the New York Times to get this information out.

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