Citizen Evidence Online Video Wrangler

Estimated time: 1 hour

Experience level: Intermediate ??

Citizen Evidence Online Video Wrangler is a collection of bash scripts to batch download, resize, and generate thumbnails of online videos. It uses the popular (recently reinstated) GitHub project, youtube-dl.

We developed the Online Video Wrangler in collaboration with Rectangle (Daniel Powers and Lizzie Malcolm) to standardise our workflow and enable all team members to batch process videos, regardless of their coding ability. As a multidisciplinary and geographically-dispersed team, creating a tool that was accessible to all was a priority.

In our experience, downloading and preparing videos for analysis or publication can be a time-consuming task in otherwise fast-paced investigations. We developed the Online Video Wrangler while researching more than 1,000 videos for A Web of Impunity, an investigation into the long-term and devastating effects of Iran’s 2019 internet shutdown. 

Internet shutdowns, content removals, and other kinds of digital erasures increasingly threaten the dissemination and preservation of citizen evidence of human rights violations. For this reason, promptly downloading videos once they have been identified as relevant is more important than ever.

❗Please take a data minimalist approach when collecting digital open source content. The fact that you can download something doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Keep in mind the serious ethical questions that come with data collection, preservation, and publication. Regularly review why you are collecting and storing particular content.


View the document here.

For a tutorial on youtube-dl only, see: The Only Tool You Need to Preserve Video from Virtually Any Online Source