How to Expose Lies from the Skies Using Satellites and Drones

In a GIJC21 session on using maps and satellite imagery for investigations, three experts explained their approaches to analyzing satellite and drone images, and using open source tools. One of the innovative techniques described led to a Pulitzer Prize this year — for exposing China’s network of Muslim detention centers — while another exposed government deception about fires in the Amazon, and a third literally put a vulnerable community in Africa on the map.

Environmental Crimes - caution tape

Investigating Environmental Crimes and Climate Change

Networks of business interests, government officials, and criminal groups run illegal operations that harm the environment in multiple ways. They drive worldwide illegal trafficking in wildlife and seafood, timber, minerals, hazardous waste, and toxic chemicals. Such environmental crimes are sometimes connected with other criminal activity, such as drug trafficking and money laundering.

Investigating Forest Fires Amid a Data Vacuum in Venezuela

In March 2020, environmental journalist Helena Carpio, leaned out of her window to see Caracas filled with smoke. Something was burning, but no one knew where and there was no official news on what was happening. She started to investigate, and the resulting project analyzed two decades of satellite data on hotspots to explore the when, where, and why of forest fires in Venezuela and across Latin America.

Data Journalism Top 10: Tokyo Olympics, Sand Mining, Elder Care, Russia’s Forests, TikTok’s Algorithm

Our NodeXL mapping from July 19 to 25, which tracks the most popular data journalism stories on Twitter each week, found imaginative data-driven coverage of the Olympics by The Washington Post, The New York Times, and other major outlets. In this edition, we also feature a piece by Reuters Graphics on how a Chinese lake has been decimated by sand mining, a cross-border investigation into the billion Euro business of elder care, and a deep dive into TikTok’s secretive algorithm by The Wall Street Journal.

My Favorite Tools: Geo-Journalist Gustavo Faleiros

For our “My Favorite Tools” series, we spoke with Brazilian journalist Gustavo Faleiros, editor of environmental investigations at the Pulitzer Center where he leads the Rainforest Investigations Network (RIN), about mapping deforestation and using data to chart what is happening in global forests.

New on GIJN: Resources for Finding and Using Satellite Imagery

Satellite are being used by journalists to report on conflicts, climate change, refugees, forest fires, illegal mining, oil spills, deforestation, slavery and many other topics. GIJN’s resource page provides official sources for free satellite images and links to experts who can advise on finding images, using them, handling technical issues and more.