Using digital tools to expose organised crime

This post is by JOMEC MAIJ student Sandister Tei

Google Ideas, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Google for Media partnered to organise “Investigathon” in London, Monday 14 July.

The one day workshop allowed participants including JOMEC students to explore new investigative technology tools for journalists, mainly the Investigative Dashboard and others like InfoScribe and Fusion Tables by Google.

In attendance as speakers and trainers were Eliot Higgins also known as “Brown Moses”, the Syrian conflict analyses blogger, Dan Russell and Vannessa Schneider — who are  digital media experts from Google, Susan McGregor of the Columbia Tow Center for  Digital Journalism and Paul Radu, director of the OCCRP.

Investigative Dashboard

The Investigative Dashboard is a web based hub where investigators can acquire information about companies and people, to probe international organised crime. Researchers can also solicit help and request more data in the dashboard. The event offered hands on training and participants were able to research and expose real money launderers in minutes using this tool, complemented by databases like Nexis Lexis and Companies House.

Other products

In addition to the Dashboard, other  applications were announced.

Google Fusion Tables is also a web platform which presents textual information  as interesting visuals to be embedded on news sites.

Another application was InfoScribe, a web-based crowd-sourcing platform, which allows journalists to upload image-based documents such as PDFs to be transcribed by the InfoScribe community for free. According to Susan McGregor transcribed documents can then be read easily read by computers to speed up investigations and also process data to help solve crime as once demonstrated in the The District’s Lost Children case.

Paul Radu who led the Dashboard workshop concluded that the perpetrators of organised crime are “smart” and it is important that such tools are used to help connect dots between events and networks to yield more efficient investigations.

As a side attraction, Google distributed Mod Notebooks for handwritten notes which can later be digitized and stored in the cloud for users to access later from Dropbox, Evernote or OneNote.