The investigative website Bellingcat has found itself at the heart of some of the Kremlin’s touchiest affairs over the last few years—starting with the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, notes Jenna Lifhits. A Russian missile killed the 298 passengers onboard and sparked months of disinformation and denials. The tragedy was “a massive catalyst both for the work of Bellingcat but also the development of the field of online open-source investigation as a whole,” says Eliot Higgins, Bellingcat’s founder, who is based in Leicester, England, she writes for The Weekly Standard:
Higgins and a crew of volunteers cut through the Kremlin’s falsehoods about what happened to the flight known as MH17, ferreting out the origins of the missile launcher used in the downing and tracking its journey into Ukraine. Obsessive curiosity is Higgins’s trademark. Blogging under the name Brown Moses, he became known for using YouTube videos to identify the weapons being used in the Syrian civil war. At Bellingcat, he has put together a roster of skilled contributors who specialize in sorting through just such information mazes.
About half of the organization’s income comes from grants and donations from groups like the Open Society Foundations and the National Endowment for Democracy or from crowdfunding for specific research projects, Lifhits adds. The other half comes from Bellingcat’s workshops on how to responsibly leverage open-source information. RTWT