In March 2014 a grainy cell phone video came across my desk that seemed to show a Nigerian soldier murdering an unarmed man in broad daylight. It took me a day and a half to pinpoint the location of this apparent war crime to a specific street corner in Maiduguri, the state capital of Borno and a city of more than 500,000 people.
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:
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).
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.
Special thanks goes to David Danforth for the development of this tool.
Photo: Screenshot of a video from the Syrian conflict after it has been removed by YouTube. Screenshot taken from YouTube.
The most compelling evidence of a human rights violation captured on video can be lost if investigators do not save the video in question. YouTube videos are often removed, either by the uploader themself, or by YouTube because of violations of its community guidelines. It is thus most crucial for any researcher to first save any video that is being investigated. This is for preservation purposes only.
Videos on YouTube are only showing the upload date, but not the exact time of upload. This can be important to find the original uploader of a video, and also helps to avoid confusion and incorrect claims about the upload date. The most prominent example for this was the false claim by Russian authorities that the chemical weapons attack in Syria from August 21, 2013, was staged, since some of the videos showed an upload date of August 20.