"Fascinating … A powerful, exhortatory call to arms."-New York Times Book Review
"A David-and-Goliath story for the digital age … Thrilling."-Foreign Policy
The page-turning inside story of the global team wielding the internet to fight for facts and combat autocracy-revealing the extraordinary ability of ordinary people to hold the powerful to account.
In 2018, Russian exile Sergei Skripal and his daughter were nearly killed in an audacious poisoning attempt in Salisbury, England. Soon, the identity of one of the suspects was revealed: he was a Russian spy. This huge investigative coup wasn't pulled off by an intelligence agency or a traditional news outlet. Instead, the scoop came from Bellingcat, the open-source investigative team that is redefining the way we think about news, politics, and the digital future.
We Are Bellingcat tells the inspiring story of how a college dropout pioneered a new category of reporting and galvanized citizen journalists-working together from their computer screens around the globe-to crack major cases, at a time when fact-based journalism is under assault from authoritarian forces. Founder Eliot Higgins introduces readers to the tools Bellingcat investigators use, tools available to anyone, from software that helps you pinpoint the location of an image, to an app that can nail down the time that photo was taken. This book digs deep into some of Bellingcat's most important investigations-the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine, Assad's use of chemical weapons in Syria, the identities of alt-right protestors in Charlottesville-with the drama and gripping detail of a spy novel.
Higgins, founder of the "online investigative community" Bellingcat, debuts with a brisk and self-congratulatory account of his organization's founding and contributions to recent high-profile investigations. A college dropout who "took refuge in online video games," Higgins traces his interest in open-source investigation, or using publicly available data to break news, back to the Arab Spring, which he followed obsessively from his office desk in England, posting insights he gathered from social media and Google Maps to a Guardian live blog. To keep a record of his discoveries, Higgins launched his own blog, where he published evidence that the Syrian army was responsible for a chemical weapons attack in 2013. After getting mainstream media attention and building a network of "established experts and amateur investigators," Higgins founded Bellingcat in 2014. He offers blow-by-blow rundowns of how the collective identified the people believed to be responsible for poisoning Sergei Skripal and his daughter in 2018 and shooting down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014. Higgins's self-taught skills are impressive, but statements such as "I never worried that a bad actor could infiltrate this project" come across as overweening. Still, fans of Bellingcat and advocates of citizen journalism will be fascinated by the behind-the-scenes details.