Why is it sometimes important to extract the exact local upload time of a YouTube video? Besides being helpful to find the original video among a host of scraped videos, it can also be crucial to determine the exact timeline of a human rights related event. Getting these facts straight can have significant implications, as for example the Syrian chemical weapons attack from August 21, 2013, has shown.
In response to the attack, Russian authorities at one point claimed that it was a staged event:
During the violent clashes in Cairo in August 2013 there was one particular YouTube video that received a lot of media attention. (The original video was subsequently removed from YouTube, but can also be viewed here.) The widely used description for this video, which for example appeared in the headline on a Washington Post blog post, was that protesters had pushed a police car off a bridge in Cairo.
The quantity of citizen video emerging from the Syrian conflict, combined with the lack of professional journalists on the ground, has resulted in a massive amount of citizen media for researchers and journalists to sort through and analyze. In cases of videos that depict likely violations of international humanitarian law, the potential for them to be used as evidence is exciting but demands a process of authentication. This is especially important since all sides of the conflict realize the power of shocking videos to bolster their own claims of victimhood or triumphalism and post or promote them accordingly. The potential for media to be mis-attributed and then widely shared on social media emphasizes the vital importance of verification. Continue reading Verifying Citizen Video: A Case Study of Destruction from Aleppo→