Watchdog is a multidisciplinary team of journalists, researchers and software engineers, operating under the Appendix umbrella. We hunt misinformation, investigate matters of public welfare, and build software tools.
We began in April 2019, days after the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, as a group of concerned citizens trying to counter misinformation. We did this amidst government crackdowns on freedom of expression and mass hysteria caused by fake news and rumors, building a mobile app that was used by over 200,000 people to verify information and counteract rumors in their own networks.
How we work
We've been called an “open-source intelligence research collective”, and that's fairly accurate. We use a lot of OSINT techniques - a combination of data scraping, analysis of publicly available documents and datasets, paired with old-school boots-on-the-ground journalism.
As a core part of Appendix, we also design and act as a testing ground for new technology. This includes work like the #AskWatchdog AI and various parts of our data scraping, information extraction and archive operations.
These are our Operational ethics. Here’s how we go about Handling conflict - whether that’s related to a story we’re working on or an internal issue. Lastly, we’re known for our no-bullshit style (which tends to annoy people who expect flowery abstractions and vagueness), so here’s our Language guide.
Who we are
The original incarnation of Watchdog was staffed by volunteer factcheckers and translators. We’ve grown significantly since then. Many of our team have strong journalism and research backgrounds, with a sprinkling of computer science to make sure we have the tools to keep up with our ambitions.
Yudhanjaya Wijeratne - CEO
Data scientist and editor-in-chief. Once an errant journalist; previously at LIRNEasia’s Data, Policy and Algorithms team, working on misinformation, resource-poor languages, machine learning and public policy. Also writes science fiction; bylines at ForeignPolicy, Wired, Slate, and so on; Forbes 30 Under 30.
Nisal Periyapperuma - CTO
A rogue SaaS engineer with a background in economics. Co-founded Paladin Analytics and rooster.jobs, growing multiple tech teams from one-person operations into enterprise SaaS companies. Designs and manages much of Watchdog tech infrastructure, including moonshots.
Mohamed Fairooz - Associate Editor
Journalist with over a decade in the field; editor of the weekly Tamil newspaper Vidivelli; print and New media trainer; UN Reham Al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellow.
Tineeka de Silva - Associate Editor
Editor, writer and communications consultant on award winning corporate projects with 16+ years’ experience in various industries. Consultant to the corporate sector, specialising in PR and communications strategies.
Joshua Perera - Associate Editor
Umesh Moramudali - Economist
Resident economist. Lectures at the the University of Colombo. Former researcher at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Finance. Ex-journalist (Ceylon Today) and founder of We Translate, a trilingual translation service.
Lara Wijesuriya - Researcher
Rukshana Rizwie - Project Manager
Ishan Marikar - Engineer
Full-stack engineer and hacker with a background in cybersecurity. Has worked on many of our public-facing tech, from the protest tracker to inflation monitor to Watchdog AI.
Nishadi Gunatilake - Researcher and Translator (Sinhala)
Attorney-at-law and sworn translator. Works in the development sector (research and program management). Writes on occasion. Gender and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) activist.
Sachintha Adikari - Engineer
Sathyajit Loganathan - Engineer
Minoli Wijetunga - Chief Operating Officer
Academic; research work at the University of Colombo (digital humanities) and University of Oxford (diversity and inclusion). Former editor of Groundviews, a publication by the Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Aisha Nazim - Associate Editor
Mirror Award-winning journalist with bylines in Roar Media, Buzzfeed News, Arab News, Scroll.in, Seattle Globalist, and Ceylon Today. Former Communications and PR Manager at The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
Amalini De Sayrah - Researcher
Writer, researcher and photographer, focused on human rights and marginalization; bylines in The Guardian, Firstpost, Global Voices, FT Sri Lanka, and Himal Southasian; former editor of Groundviews and institutional communications at the Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Nabeela Iqbal - Social Media Manager
Peacebuilder and activist; Back in 2020 Amnesty International named her a young human rights defender in the face of the pandemic. Works in women's and minority rights and loves using the internet to tell stories. Handled social media platforms for Watchdog.
Kesavan Selvarajah - Translator (Tamil)
A lecturer at the University of Kelaniya, developing a career that combines teaching and research while maintaining his interest in machine learning.
Nadim Majeed - Producer
Multidisciplinary broadcast journalist. Over a decade as a producer, TV anchor and reporter at The Capital Maharaja Organisation. Former Advocacy & Communications Consultant at Transparency International Sri Lanka.
These organizations have given us money to do what we do.
|Funder||Who they are||Why they funded us|
|OCCRP (Primary Funder)||The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) is an investigative reporting coalition that specializes in organized crime and corruption, operating in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, South Asia and Central America.||To keep our regular research operations and factchecks running in English, Sinhala and Tamil.|
|IREX||The International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) is an international, nonprofit organization that specializes in global education and development in more than 100 countries.||To design and deliver a media literacy and anti-misinformation syllabus for Sri Lanka.|
Locked for now. We'll open this up when we want to talk.