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Dissecting a US Airstrike in Syria

Cross-posted with Lemming Cliff

Amid the grey dust and twisted metal, the young girl discovered beneath the rubble of a destroyed building in Kafr Deryan, a small town 40km west of Aleppo, is barely visible. If you look closely enough, for a split second you can see her ponytail and hair tie before they disappear beneath the debris once more.

These images are among the strongest pieces of evidence pointing to civilian injuries and deaths that night as a result of a US-led Coalition strike that took place in the early hours of September 23, 2014. I was able to spot the girl at 1:46 of this video by repeatedly watching the video in slow motion.

The incident, which happened during the first night of US-led strikes in Syria, was captured by multiple cameras and shared on social media. Continue reading Dissecting a US Airstrike in Syria

Step-by-Step Guide To Assess Citizen Video

This step-by-step guide will assist human rights researchers to systematically assess citizen videos that depict potential human rights violations. It integrates best practices of citizen video authentication and brings the myriad of required verification steps into one, linear format.

At the end of the guide, users will be able to download the collected information as a pdf or word document, which can be saved together with the assessed video, or shared with other researchers or experts to aid with further investigations.

Please note that this assessment tool is geared towards YouTube videos. However, the basic steps and methodologies used here can be applied to any video.

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Feature photo: Christoph Koettl

YouTube Data Viewer

The YouTube Data Viewer is a simple tool to extract hidden data from videos hosted on YouTube. It allows you to extract the following variables, which are most useful for tracking down original content:

  1. Exact Upload Time
    Useful to determine original video when confronted with several copies of the same video from the same date; and to determine actual upload date in same cases (can be different from public timestamp).
  2. All Thumbnails
    Useful to find older versions of the same video, by conducting a reverse image search

(Please contact us if you are interested in further developing this tool with us).

After clicking on the link below, simply paste the YouTube URL in the relevant field.

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Special thanks goes to  David Danforth for the development of this tool.

Syria Chemical Weapons Attack: Debunking Russia’s False Claim About Video Upload Date

Photo: Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons  (OPCW)-UN Chemical Weapons Team Arrives in Damascus.  October 1, 2013. © UN Photo by Hend Abdel Ghany.

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:

“There are reports circulating on the Internet, in particular that the materials of the incident and accusations against government troops had been posted for several hours before the so-called attack. Thus, it was a pre-planned action.” – Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, August 23, 2013.

Continue reading Syria Chemical Weapons Attack: Debunking Russia’s False Claim About Video Upload Date

How To: Create a Panoramic Image From a Video

This tutorial was originally prepared by Richard Cozzens

Panoramic images or photo mosaics from videos are often used in human rights research, and are especially useful for matching up visual features such as landmarks with satellite imagery. For example, Human Rights Watch used a photo mosaics in a January 2014 report on housing demolitions in Syria (see p. 22).  A more detailed case study in the use of panoramic images can be found here.

For the following tutorial, I am using a video from Aleppo.

Continue reading How To: Create a Panoramic Image From a Video