“Privacy is something that we did in the 1900,” states Paul Myers. And this is a good thing for journalists, albeit ethically problematic.
Myers (tweeting @researchclinic) is a BBC journalist and a Houdini of internet searches. How to trace the track down the current location of someone from their IP address or phone number? How to find the original source of a fake story? How to find deleted tweets? Or perhaps the real identity behind an anonymous Facebook page?
In one hour he talked through a wealth of resources available to journalists, all listed on his website (http://www.researchclinic.net/). Most of these, like Facebook URL searches, are completely free and easy to use, but simply unknown to most journos. Others, like banj.jo (a web tool to source social media posts by location) have a free version for journalists. All are invaluably useful.
Below just a few examples of what I discovered is possible to do by adopting a stalker mentality and adopting the right tools:
whois.domaintools.com is a collection of tools, some priced by search, to dig into websites. Who registered a URL and where? What other websites are registered on the same server? What were the previous versions of this page?
https://hoaxy.iuni.iu.edu/ will map out the viral spread of a fake story over time and allows you to trace it back to the original post.
https://www.lusha.co/ is a plugin for chrome that will give you email and addresses of people on socialmedia. Triangulate this with
http://contactout.com/ and https://www.truecaller.com/ to find a prime minister’s phone number, or the email of your ex’s current boyfriend/girlfriend.
https://www.fama.io/ allows you to filter through a person’s Facebook profile by “red flags” (keywords such as swearwords, or showing support for a party or extremist group). Originally intended for head hunters, is a great tool for journalists to find relevant posts and avoid scrolling down for hours on Facebook walls.
https://peoplefindthor.dk/ is a Facebook’s advanced search tool. It allows you to search friends of friends, posts commented on, pages or photos liked, locations tagged for one or multiple Facebook accounts. Did the victim know the murderer? This may help you find out.
People leave behind them a wealth of information on the internet, and going beyond the usual control+F and advanced Google search is a must for any modern investigator. Try to spend a couple of hours using these tools on yourself- you will be embarrassed and slightly chilled by what you could find out.