The keys to verifying videos

There is a pre-Internet expression: “I’ll believe it when I see it”. Well, in the 21st-century of digitalization and social media, this phrase is now obsolete. No, you can no longer believe everything you see. Our eyes are not infallible. They never have been, and that is even more true online. There are image manipulation techniques, some straightforward and others more sophisticated, which can be used to fake videos and virally spread deceit. This makes it essential to learn the keys to verifying audiovisual content.

In journalism, one method used to ascertain if information is complete and reliable is to analyze whether it fulfils what are known as the 5Ws: Who, What, When, Where and Why. This technique can also be useful in digital verification.

To Verify Videos, we suggest the 8Ws technique:

1. Watch out

Prevention and skepticism are healthy approaches in a context such as social media, where so many different interests are intermingled: personal, political, economic… Apply common sense, develop a critical viewpoint, and… watch out!

2. What

What do you see? Look carefully. In a society based on immediacy, it is vital to take your time, to look and look again. Only then will you be able to spot those signs that a video has been tampered with: Do the shadows appear and disappear? Is the framing of the images a little odd? Does the mouth move in a strange way? Are you watching the original version of the video, or a fragment of a pre-existing video taken out of context?

3. Who

Who posted the video for the first time? It is important to trace and reconstruct the chain of transmission. Was it posted by an anonymous source? Is it a reliable source? Can the poster confirm that they were at the location of the events?

4. Where

Where was this video filmed? Can you confirm it? The architecture of the buildings, car registration plates, the type of vegetation you can see, the language on posters and signs, people’s clothing… All of this can offer clues to identify the location of the image.

5. When

Is the video contemporary or historical? When was it filmed? Video verification tools can help clarify this aspect. The weather conditions, the shadows, if newspapers from a particular day can be seen… All of this can prove useful. We advise you to use the tools available.

6. Why

What circumstances were the images filmed in? Why were they filmed?

7. Watchers

A community is worth its weight in gold. It is important to look at comments about the video. Users sometimes act as watchers, keen observers flagging up possible cons.

8. Warn

If you identify a fake video, warn other people and don’t share it. It is very important to act responsibly and not to use WhatsApp, social media or any other channel to spread a manipulated video. Warn the people who sent it to you and others who might see it, so that they are not taken in.

You can see down here a group of students of our workshops verifying a video.  (video in Spanish)

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