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Four Important Tips to Effectively Verify Viral Videos

From political soundbites  to disease treatment recommendations,  videos  have become one of the modes of disseminating misinformation and fake news. A huge amount of fake news and misinformation overflowing on the web may come in videos. The situation has further been complicated by the development of advanced editing software and artificial intelligence  coupled with the rise of new and social media. 

The January 2022 Hootsuite social report indicates that popular video streaming and sharing platforms, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, are among the top five most used social media platforms. The report further suggests that 57% of Tiktok users have reported watching less TV and streaming services since downloading the app, an indication that such activity may be consuming a lot more of user generated content. As a result, the demand for  content on these platforms is significantly making room for more content creators leading to a spike in the production of  unverified information as well as manipulation of voice overs and graphics of videos to propagate different agenda .

As a result of this increasing menace, signatories of the International Fact-Checking  Network have petitioned Youtube, the most popular video streaming service to take measures in clamping down on fake content. In an open letter to YouTube’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Susan Wojcicki, IFCN signatories, Dubawa inclusive, noted that the platform has been exploited by spreaders of false information. That action  gives credence to the kind of efforts required in verifying videos by fact-checking organizations. 

Fact-checking videos can be tricky  because they come in different forms; deepfakes, cheapfakes and videos that have characters sharing misinformation  etc. Deepfake videos typically stitch people into videos that they never were part of. They are created with the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Cheapfakes, according to CNN,  are videos that are altered by using advanced editing tools to slow down or speed up, dub new voices onto them or splice up different unrelated scenes together to change context.

Working on video verifications can be a difficult and disconcerting task but it is not something that cannot be done. Several fact-checking organizations including Dubawa continue to verify several fake videos to debunk fake news.  Our recent video fact-check can be found here.

In this piece, we provide you with four useful tips to help you effectively verify videos. Although not exhaustive, these tips have been adopted and recommended by fact-checking organizations as well as global media organizations .

 Pay attention to the details first

Before dissecting or trying to use advanced tools to verify a video, take a critical look at it by paying attention to the natural details. The goal of this is to first check if the same video has been reported in the media already. Secondly, this helps you to pay attention to any details that may have been doctored such as movement of lips,  or any unnatural movements of characters in the video. The idea is to prevent yourself from wasting time and resources. 

Paying attention to the details also means checking the audio. Voice dubbing is one of several ways that people manipulate videos. A good way to do this is to check the lip movement of the characters in the video to know whether they are actually saying exactly what you are hearing.

Check for Metadata

Like all data, images and videos also have metadata. The metadata of videos provide information such as the format, where and when the video was taken. This is a bit complicated but the right skill can help you do that.  While this may be a good way to start, it has some downsides too. In some cases, the metadata of videos shared over some social media platforms may be stripped off. Identifying the metadata works out well if you have the source file. Tools such as ExifTool can help you get the metadata of videos. 

Use trusted online video verification tools

We understand that this is the first step for most people who are trying to verify videos and that’s okay.  Online video verification tools such as Amnesty International’s YouTube Dataviewer or  the  InVid browser extension (a step by step guide on using this will be provided in our next article) have proven to be effective at verifying videos. Unlike Amnesty International’s YouTube Dataviewer  that works with just Youtube videos, the  InVid browser extension works well with videos from YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, allowing one to pull keyframes from videos for further analysis.

Reverse Image Search Can Help

Yes. Reverse image search is a very useful step in verifying videos. Take screenshots from the video in question and run it through reverse image tools such as Google Reverse Image Search  and TinEye. Since videos are composed of frames, reverse image search tools may point you to other places where these videos have been shared. In some cases, you may find altered versions of them, if there is any.

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