Handy Chrome extensions for journalists
The internet is a journalist’s greatest tool, but also it can be a minefield of false leads and traps that can destroy your reputation. Whether you are under pressure to have perfectly clean copy, or you need to employ powerful digital verification techniques, Google Chrome’s extensions are your best friend.
Chrome extensions are simple plugins that you add to your Chrome browser that increase functionality. Some are simple, such as those which block advertising, others are more advanced, such as Grammarly and tools to spoof other devices.
This list contains all the tools I have used and benefitted from (in no particular order). Some are simple and increase productivity, while others can be employed for more advanced investigations.
GoFullPage Screen Capture
This tool is a fantastic one for documenting pages as you see them. While normal screen capture tools only capture the information on the screen at the time, this tool will render a full webpage meaning you don’t have to scroll and stick screenshots together.
I first used this tool to build a portfolio of all my web articles for my degree, but it has uses beyond that too.
For example, if you are investigating a website, you may want to document the site each time you look at it. This could be especially important if the site is liable to change or be taken down. (Keep reading to see an even better alternative to this).
If you are reporting on something negative, the site may quickly amend the website and any links may not show what you saw.
Likewise, if you are reporting on something delicate, you may want to capture evidence of the work you published before other reporters added to it after your shift ended.
This tool is excellent for design and multimedia creation. I have used it a lot when working on my own websites, for example, matching header images to the background colour of the site.
The extension works by adding an eyedropper tool to your browser which you can use to pick a colour on the screen. It will then give you the RGB and Hex codes for that colour which allows you to use it in any of your designs.
EXIF viewer pro
EXIF viewer pro is a fantastic tool for image verification and investigative work. When cameras take photos they can include a huge amount of information in the metadata. This info can include dates and times the image was captured, as well as the camera model and even coordinates.
It is a great way to verify that an image is what it claims to be and can be key to fact-checking and proving legitimacy.
A major note to be aware of though is that most social media sites will remove image metadata when an image is uploaded to preserve user privacy.
To use, just right click on any image and select “Show Exif data”. Bear in mind that it has its limitations. It is best to use the original image rather than re-uploads.
Wayback Machine is one of the internet’s greatest tools. It allows you to explore historical versions of web pages and see what was originally posted. One of the key benefits of Wayback Machine is that it allows you to save a website snapshot so you can revisit it later, even if it has been altered.
There are a few cases where this site will not work. When I was conducting a web analysis of Chinese Government and state media sites, they crashed the archiver. I believe this is either due to the sheer number of trackers and scripts on the websites or a deliberate attempt to block archiving.
To get around this, you can build your own archive offline by right-clicking on the page and saving the HTML.
Rev Eye Reverse image
Another crucial image analysis tool, Rev Eye Reverse Image allows you to search the web for an image simply by right-clicking it. This tool gives you the options to search via all the main search engines either individually or simultaneously in new tabs for each.
I use this tool a lot for finding the original versions of images and it is an essential tool in the image verification toolkit. If you see an image and want to confirm its legitimacy, use this plugin and see if it has been posted before.
Quite often, images are repurposed and shared with captions wholly unrelated to push a certain viewpoint or agenda. This tool is perhaps the quickest way to disprove it.
A highlight of this tool is its inclusion of Yandex reverse image search. Yandex is the predominant search engine in Russia and it is very good at facial recognition, particularly of Caucasians (due to the datasets it was trained on).
Enable Right Click
This tool is really simple. It allows you to right-click on pages that have right-clicking blocked. This is a somewhat common tool used by web designers to prevent people from saving images or copying content.
Provided you aren’t using it for copyright infringement, it is a great way to get data from sites that don’t want you to.
Grammarly is a great tool for catching those pesky tpyos but also offers much more. While traditional spellcheck will correct your spelling and basic grammar, with this extension you can also get recommendations for better sentence structure and more advanced writing techniques.
If you write regularly I highly recommend the paid subscription. Likewise, if you have a big one-off report due, it is quite handy to buy a month’s subscription (sadly a bit costly for a single month) to ensure it is clean and professional.
Google Translate is your key to unlocking the internet when sites are written in other languages. While you could copy text into the Translate webpage, this extension means you have even easier access to translations on the go.
Open selected links
Not a lot to say about this tool other than what is in the title. If you highlight multiple links, you can open them simultaneously into new tabs. It can speed up your workflow significantly
I have used this to open all posts by an author from their bio page, as well as to quickly open all Google search results for further analysis.
User agent switcher
Sometimes web pages serve different devices with different content. This is a simple tool to pretend you are using a different device or browser to investigate a website. Whether it is to unlock a certain online feature or to disguise the device you are using, this tool can be very useful.
Yes, I’m that guy who has 20 different tabs open. Yes, I’m that guy that needs them all. Being able to rename tabs in Chrome is a really useful feature that should really be added to the browser itself.
I use this a lot to keep things organised and to make tab management a lot easier. If I am browsing many different sources in different tabs, renaming them can mean finding the piece of information a little easier and that speeds up my workflow.
When was this website published?
Do you want to investigate a website? This is the first step you should take in gathering information. With a simple tool you can see exactly when a website was first published.
This can be really useful when verifying news sites you don’t recognise and may provide them with additional legitimacy or raise red flags.
This one is a bit controversial, but it is a tool which aids Reddit investigations. It works by looking at usernames and comparing them with a known database of posts in particular subreddits (normally far-right or problematic subreddits). If a user has posted in those subreddits then they will appear with a flag next to their username so you know they may be “opinionated”.
It is important to use this as a very loose guide because participation in a subreddit does not mean people subscribe to that set of beliefs. Likewise, the tool dictates what subreddits get flagged rather than allowing you to pick them.
It is a useful tool to leave on when browsing Reddit and to see where people’s agendas or misinformation may come from. The risk is though, that you may discard their opinion immediately through your own cognitive biases without full evaluations. Use this tool mindfully.
Can’t keep track of all the Twitter replies in a thread? This tool has you covered. Since Twitter allows you to reply to a post or any one of its comments, it can be a tangle of conversation forming many paths. Treeverse simplifies this by mapping out every comment and its child comments in a tree-like structure which can help visualise and follow conversations more easily.