Journalism and fact-checking

10. Tools for checking videos on the Internet /

By 2021, online videos will make up 82% of all consumer internet traffic. In the early days of the Web, most content was text based. Today 78% of users watch videos online every week, and over half of video content is viewed on mobile devices. The problem with videos, as with photos, is that they can be manipulated easily. Deepfakes are starting to appear everywhere. Let’s focus on the most common thing: images used out of context.

As with photos, you will have to investigate online in order to find the original video. Here’s what you need to do. You first have to split the video into several parts to obtain still images. As a video is made up of a large number of photos placed one after the other, it is possible to extract a few and then use a search engine for our investigation.

But what do you do if you know nothing about video editing software or you’re short of time? Don’t panic! The NGO Amnesty International has thought of you. Thanks to its YouTube Dataviewer tool, you can automatically isolate thumbnails from a video hosted on YouTube.

For the more net-savvy, another tool allows you to fragment a video into a series of keyframes. It’s a plugin that you can add to your browser. InVID

Let’s use an example to help you understand. On the 19th of May 2016, an EgyptAir plane crashed into the Mediterranean, claiming 66 lives. Soon after, videos starting circulating on social media, including this one, which was supposedly shot just before the crash.

To check whether this video has been published elsewhere on the net, you will have to use Amnesty International’s tool. As this tool only works with YouTube, you first have to download the video and then upload it to the platform. To retrieve a video, there are several free tools available, including the efficient

Copy the Facebook video’s URL from the address bar then paste it into the tool. It will ask if you want to download it.

Click on “Download in Normal Quality” then right-click on the video display window.

Click on “Save under…” then go to your YouTube account. In the left menu, select “Your Videos” then click the blue button in the top right corner “Manage Videos”. 

Click “Create” then “Upload Video”. Then select your file. In “More Options”, unclick “Allow embedding” and “Publish to subscriptions feed and notify subscribers”. Click “Next” to get to the “Visibility” screen, and select “Unlisted” for your video.

On the screen listing your videos, click on the thumbnail then on the video’s URL.

Copy the full URL in your browser then paste it into Amnesty’s tool, which will automatically allow you to run a reverse image search on Google.

It only takes a few minutes’ search to see that the video was actually filmed on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Jakarta, which encountered severe turbulence on the 5th of May 2016. It has nothing to do with the EgyptAir plane crash.

If you are unable to determine the origin of a photo thanks to these tools, clues on a video can help you prove that the information is false, like in this investigation carried out by the France 24 Observers. The journalist wanted to prove that a video claiming to show a fight involving the President of Guinea Alpha Condé had not actually been filmed in the country. And what caught his eye was the number plate!

So sometimes you need to be shrewd, and make sure you scrutinise every detail of a video.

Good luck with your investigations!

A CFI project in partnership with France Médias Monde

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