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Published on July 23rd, 2014 | by EJC


Featured Tool: Social Sensor

In a nutshell:

Social Sensor, a project funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme, aims to make sense of the seemingly insurmountable bulk of information emerging from social media and multimedia, especially user-generated content (UGC). It mines, processes and clusters UGC for trends, influences and interesting topics, providing these in the form of personalised results to individual users, along with visualisation and socialisation features. Beneficiaries of Social Sensor range from those within the news sector, such as journalists in  need of reliable information in conflict zones, private news consumers or newsrooms seeking user opinions, but it is also expected to have a great impact on Infotainment by providing new multimedia search tools and original media consumption experiences. In all cases, Social Sensor offers a head start into emerging trends from trustworthy sources.


The crux of Social Sensor lies in following trustworthy and influential users on the web, so-called “news hounds”, who are in close proximity to particular subjects and issues, or are experienced news sharers. It then collects and clusters multimedia items, such as images and videos, according to a given subject or issue. Aggregated content can be visualised through interactive maps, and elements like mobile2mobile live streaming provide the opportunity to interact and share information with other users. Moreover, Social Sensor provides adapted versions of interfaces for web, mobile and tablet, respectively. The mobile app, for instance, allows for the detection of “nearby” social media via the addition of a geo-location feature.


Verifying content is an integral part of Social Sensor, and occurs alongside collection by automatically tracing any available data regarding content, context and contributor. At this point, users will have received clustered, relevant, and ready-to-use content, with insights into the source and the associated level of trustworthiness. By letting users decide themselves as to what extent an item is newsworthy or trusted, Social Sensor adds a human verification element. In collaboration with the Athens Technology Centre and Deutsche Welle, the project is currently developing an “Alethiometer” that will expand the level of credibility to take into account the contributor’s reliability, context and the nature of content.

Information for journalists:  

Social Sensor has proved particularly useful for news professionals, such as journalists and newsrooms, who rely on receiving timely updates on emerging topics and trends in user-generated content. It can help track public opinion, for example on news publications, and provide significant assistance in information-restricted areas. Take conflict zones or disaster-induced volatile situations, for example: social media output may plunge, while traditional news sourcing and reliable information access can become extremely limited. Which information can be trusted in a politically sensitive environment? Social Sensor assists by indexing, clustering and verifying trending topics of public interest to journalists and newsrooms.

Interestingly, Social Sensor is reported to be effective by journalists and scientists alike, scoring high in the benefits for breaking news coverage, verification, detecting interesting stories or receiving quick eyewitness reports.

State of progress:

According to its website, Social Sensor is currently being expanded and refined, with further amendments being made to the algorithm for mining news trends, identifying key influencers (“hounds”) and moulding the mobile app.

Source: Social Sensor Project

About the Author:

Pauline Lendrich currently writes and works for the European Journalism Centre. She is originally from Germany and studied International Relations and Security at Maastricht University as well as at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Follow on Twitter: @Paulinelliott

Photo: marsmetn tallahassee

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