Open-source intelligence, or OSINT, has changed the way journalists and analysts observe violent conflict. Using a variety of publicly-available sources, like satellite imagery, in-person footage and even public radio traffic, OSINT researchers work from afar to confirm the time, location, and nature of battlefield details such as troop movements, artillery impacts, and destroyed military equipment. Most importantly, they can do this without relying on intelligence released by governments, which can be selective and used to advance that government’s objectives.
As OSINT has grown in popularity, however, it’s more important than ever for news consumers to ensure that their information sources are credible. Individuals and organizations that do OSINT work often don’t operate within traditional newsrooms, with editors and fact-checkers vetting their work. Instead, they do their work in public, collaborating with others and sometimes making mistakes along the way. The best OSINT researchers and organizations show their work, describe where they’ve gotten their source information, and admit quickly when they’ve gotten something wrong.
We spoke to experts in the field who reviewed the contents of this list. If you’re looking to get an on-the-ground view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, these resources are a good place to start:
Bellingcat – A leader in OSINT journalism known for painstakingly geolocating video and photo evidence, Bellingcat is tracking the use of cluster munitions in Ukraine and debunking dubious footage from the Russian invasion. The Twitter feeds of individual Bellingcat journalists including Christo Grozev and Aric Toler, among others, are also useful sources.
The New York Times Visual Investigations Team – Though they work at a traditional outlet, this team has done some incredible work based on publicly available information. In addition to the Times website, individual Times journalists have active Twitter accounts that show their work. Check out Haley Willis, Christoph Koettl, Evan Hill, Muyi Xiao and Christiaan Triebert.
The Centre for Information Resilience – With another mapmaking effort, CIR is working with Bellingcat and others to chart original source material of significant incidents in Ukraine. The group also frequently updates its Twitter account with its work geolocating footage from social media.
Ukraine Weapons Tracker – This active Twitter account identifies Russian weapons and abandoned (and destroyed) vehicles.
Satellite imagery companies – Several companies, including Capella Space, Planet and Black Sky have become a valuable source for journalists, researchers and governments seeking to track developments like Russian convoy movements from above.
Flight trackers – If you’re interested in the movement of Russian oligarchs’ private jets or the impacts of countries’ bans on Russian aircraft, check out the popular flight-tracking sources FlightRadar24 and ADS-B Exchange.
Individual Twitter users – Lots of great OSINT comes from individual journalists and researchers sharing their work in real time. This can mean coming in contact with raw and sometimes unverified information, so it’s best if news is confirmed by multiple sources, such as Rob Lee, OSINTtechnical, John Marquee and Tom Bullock.