How to Conduct Effective Adverse Media Screening

By Blackdot Solutions

A decorative image for display at the top of an article about adverse media screening software. It depicts two men typing at computers.

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    What is effective adverse media screening?

    Effective adverse media screening is a regulatory expectation, a key part of a risk-based approach, and a proactive measure in identifying financial or reputational threats. However, conducting effective screening has notable barriers. For one, there is a vast amount of online information available, which can make it difficult to systematically and intelligibly sift through findings in a timely manner. Secondly, among the extensive amounts of online data are sources with different levels of reliability and credibility. Analysts must constantly discern between genuine findings and fake news or disinformation. Other challenges include navigating foreign languages and determining if findings truly pertain to the subject being investigated, which can be especially tricky for those with a common name. Many analysts know that adverse media screening software can help them overcome these challenges, however it can be difficult to determine which solution is right for your organisation.

    This article outlines the essential components to ensure effective adverse media screening. These best practices can be used to help create an optimised workflow for adverse media checks, ensuring your firm’s anti-financial crime programme is robust and protected from nefarious actors and reputational risk. 

    Suggested Reading: After reading this article to get a better understanding of how to enhance the effectiveness of adverse media screening, read our article on how to increase the efficiency of adverse media checks too.

    Define your scope and methodology

    The first critical step to ensuring effective adverse media screening is defining a clear scope and methodology. The scope should be defined to understand the scenarios in which subjects must be screened while addressing any potential nuances, the sources used, and why you are screening, i.e. what you are looking for. The methodology should detail how the checks are conducted, including information on data collection, keyword and criteria setting, and how different risk levels are assessed. 

    Questions to help build out your scope:

    • Who is screened and when? (e.g. if onboarding an entity at a financial institution, do you need to screen all shareholders?)
    • What types of risk are being screened? (e.g. political exposure, financial crime risk, reputational risk)
    • What types of risks are irrelevant? (e.g. a speeding ticket)
    • What timeframe is relevant? (e.g. are things older than ten years irrelevant for your investigation? Or should everything be captured and considered, regardless of how long ago the event was?)
    • Which languages are you screening in? (e.g. are languages other than English included, based on factors like the subject’s residential history?)
    • Which sources are you screening?

    Your scope will factor in regulatory considerations and your firm’s risk appetite. It’s important to note that some jurisdictions are more stringent than others. For example, the EU’s Sixth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (6AMLD) codified and harmonised 22 money laundering predicate offences, including environmental crime and cybercrime. This inclusion effectively means firms operating in the EU should explicitly include these predicate offences in their adverse media screening. Other jurisdictions may have varying obligations, so firms must stay informed and adapt their screening processes accordingly. 

    After clearly defining your scope, ensure it is documented and stored in a location easily accessible to all team members for future reference. For exceptional or higher-risk cases, an escalation procedure should be outlined.  Ensuring everyone in your organisation is aligned is essential and helps reduce misunderstandings or inconsistencies. Remember, for adverse media screening to be truly effective, it requires a standardised and uniform approach.

    Adopt the right software for effective adverse media screening

    Once you have determined your scope and methodology, it’s paramount to identify the best tools to help your team carry out adverse media screening tasks. While they do serve a purpose, the use of internet search engines for adverse media checks like Google or Bing has been cautioned against by industry authorities such as the Wolfsberg Group. In a recent publication, the Wolfsberg Group stated that because internet search engines “have not been designed to assess financial crime risk” they may inadvertently de-prioritise relevant information. As internet search engines are algorithm-driven software for content browsing rather than databases, firms should understand their limitations when using them for adverse media screening.

    A more effective approach is using sophisticated, specially designed tools that streamline research by leveraging advanced automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and its subsets machine learning and natural language processing. These tools help overcome many challenges firms face with conducting adverse media screening, such as overwhelming volumes of data or translation issues. Tools leveraging AI or automation can quickly scan a breadth of online open sources for information about your subject, including those often omitted from curated databases. By including less ‘official’ sources like social media profiles, smaller media outlets and online forums, analysts can gain a live snapshot of a subject’s risk profile. A good tool will also triage and categorise results, prioritising findings logically and intuitively. Natural language processing assists with language translation, ensuring that adverse news in foreign languages or scripts doesn’t go unnoticed.

    Features to look for in an adverse media screening tool:

    • Ability to triage and prioritise alerts
    • Augment existing systems, rather than ‘ripping and replacing’
    • Ability to sort and rank sources for reliability
    • Performs disambiguation and entity resolution, to ensure results relate to the right subject
    • Ability to differentiate and categorise between types of risk (e.g. financial crime risk, serious and organised crime, political, extremism, offshore leaks, etc.)
    • Fully explainable, configurable, and easy to use
    • Ability to integrate into case management systems
    • Varied and suitable delivery mechanisms (e.g. SaaS platform, on a cloud, on premise etc.)

    All these features help analysts conduct their research faster. As AI-powered or automation tools quickly share findings relevant to a subject, teams can focus on analysing and contextualising the information critically. The right tools are indispensable to helping compliance teams fulfil their adverse media screening duties effectively and efficiently.

    Contextual analysis

    Another key component of conducting efficient adverse media screening is contextualising the information collected. Findings should never be taken at face value and must be considered among other relevant factors. Adverse media screening software that uses natural language processing can help with this, as it can determine the nuance and context of a finding. For example, an article about “fraud prevention initiatives” has a different context than an article about someone committing fraud. Using AI-powered tools dramatically speeds up this process for analysts, presenting them with adverse media results that are actually incriminating to their subject.

    Findings must also be understood within the broader context. Potential regional, cultural, or geopolitical nuances may contribute to the interpretation or validity of claims presented in an article. For example, gift-giving cultures may be interpreted as bribery. Certain news outlets may have a political bias. Geopolitical perspectives may colour the portrayal of a protest or civil unrest.

    As part of this broader contextualisation, findings must always be understood in terms of credibility and analysts must consider how reliable a source truly is. For example, state-sponsored media may be overtly or covertly biased. Online forums where anyone can post anything have a different level of credibility than well-respected media publications such as the Financial Times, or criminal records on a government database. Understanding where sources fall on a scale of reliability is imperative for any investigation. Good adverse media screening software will help prioritise the findings based on the source’s reliability and assist analysts with this contextualisation process.

    Continuous monitoring 

    Finally, an essential component of an effective adverse media screening approach is continuously monitoring for new and emerging threats. Risks are not static; they evolve in response to global events, regulatory changes, and shifting geopolitical landscapes. Effective adverse media screening requires proactive and dynamic approaches to assessing risk. Define a process for ongoing checks, which will be influenced by your risk appetite and regulatory requirements. Update your screening methodology to include new leaks or investigations as they happen. Outsourcing to a technology provider is advantageous because these firms specialise in monitoring the open source landscape and continuously update sources. From a regulatory point of view, stay up-to-date with regulatory requirements and expectations, including any guidance that may inform your adverse media screening approach. Adjust your screening parameters to include new sources, threats, or time frames.

    How Videris can help with effective adverse media screening

    Videris is a comprehensive OSINT platform that allows investigators and analysts to perform truly effective adverse media screening at speed. Benefits include:

    Expanded scope for increased effectiveness

    Videris introduces automation to adverse media screening, dramatically increasing efficiency. This allows for a broader scope, improving your ability to detect instances of financial crime. 

    With Videris, investigators can include more languages in scope without the need for in-house language speakers, thanks to multi-language search and translation capabilities. They can also screen more widely: Videris lets investigators search across multiple sources at once, including live internet data. Investigators must no longer limit scope solely for the sake of efficiency, reducing the risk of oversights.

    Use live internet data without efficiency losses

    Videris speeds up and streamlines processes, presenting teams with categorised and prioritised findings. This allows investigators to meet targets and have more time for actual analysis.

    With Videris, investigators can reduce time spent visiting different tabs or databases by combining disparate sources in a single interface – as well as getting to the right information at speed with in-built filtering and analysis. Automated flagging of connections and similarities reduces the need for manual cross-referencing – and margin for human error.

    Facilitates consistent methodology

    Videris is a dedicated platform for live internet investigations, meaning that investigators can introduce consistent methodology around dynamic and fast-changing data.

    Investigation steps are replicable and easy to track with integrated logging to facilitate the creation of transparent, consistent processes. It’s also easy to ensure that evidence is readily available – even if data is removed from the internet – with automated source capture.

    Good usability for quick adoption and ROI

    Videris is designed for investigators, by investigators. It’s easy to use, enhancing existing workflows to ensure smooth adoption and fast ROI. Investigations teams will typically see efficiency increases of up to 400% in just a few weeks, alongside better effectiveness.

    Book a demo today.

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