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Video verification step by step

Video verification step by step

What should you do if you encounter a suspicious video online? Although there is no golden rule for video verification and each case may present its own particularities, the following steps are a good way to start.

What should you do if you encounter a suspicious video online? Although there is no golden rule for video verification and each case may present its own particularities, the following steps are a good way to start. 

Pay attention and ask yourself these basic questions

Start with asking some basic questions like “Could what I am seeing here be true?”, “Who is the source of the video and why am I seeing/receiving this?”. “Am I familiar with this account?”, “Has the account’s content and reporting been reliable in the past?” and “Where is the uploader based, judging by the account’s history?”. Thinking the answers to such questions may raise some red flags about why you should be skeptical towards what you see. Also, watch the video at least twice and pay close attention to the details; this remains your best shot for identifying fake videos, especially deepfakes. So, careful viewers may be able to detect certain inconsistencies in the video (e.g. non-synchronized lips or irregular background noises) or signs of editing/manipulation (e.g. certain areas of a face that are blurry or strange cuts in the video). Most video manipulation is still visible by the naked eye. If you want to read more on how to deal with dubious claims in general, you can read our previous blog post

Capture and reverse search video frames

When encountering a suspicious image, reverse searching it on Google or Yandex is one of the first steps you take in order to find out if it was used before in another context . For videos, although reverse video search tools are not commercially available yet, there are ways to work around that, in order to examine the provenance of a video and see whether similar or identical videos have circulated online in the past. There are many tools like Frame-By-Frame that enable users to view a video frame-by-frame, capture any frame and save it – if you have the VLC player installed it works as well. 

Cropping certain parts of a frame or flipping the frame (flipping images is one method disinformation actors use to make it more difficult to find the original source through reverse image search) before doing a reverse search may sometimes yield unexpected results. Also, searching in several reverse search engines (Google, Yandex, Baidu, TinEye, Karma Decay for Reddit, etc.) increases the possibility of finding the original video. The InVID-WeVerify plugin can help you verify images and videos using a set of tools like contextual clues, image forensics, reverse image search, keyframe extraction and more.

Examine the location where the video was allegedly filmed

Although in some instances it is very difficult or nearly impossible to verify the location where a video was shot, other times the existence of landmarks, reference points or other distinct signs in the video may reveal its filming location. For example, road signs, shop signs, landmarks like mountains, distinct buildings or other building structures can help you corroborate the video’s filming location.

Tools like Google Maps, Google Street View, Wikimapia, and Mapillary can be used to cross-check whether the actual filming location is the same as the alleged. Checking historical weather conditions for this particular place, date and time is another way to verify a video. Shadows visible in the video should also be cross-checked to determine whether they are consistent with the sun’s trajectory and position at that particular day and time. SunCalc is a tool that helps users check if shadows are correct by showing sun movement and sunlight phases during the given day and time at the given location. And sometimes it helps to stitch together several keyframes to narrow down the location – you may check this great tutorial by Amnesty

Video metadata and image forensics 

Even though most social media platforms remove content metadata once someone uploads a video or an image, if you have the source video, you can use your computer’s native file browser or tools like Exiftool to examine the video’s metadata. Also, with tools like Amnesty International’s YouTube DataViewer you will be able to find out the exact day and time a video was uploaded on YouTube.  If the above steps don’t yield confident results and you are still unsure of the video you can try out some more elaborate ways to assess its authenticity. With tools like the InVID-WeVerify plugin or FotoForensics you can examine an image or a video frame for manipulations with forensics algorithms like Error Level Analysis (ELA) and Double Quantization (DQ). The algorithms may reveal signs of manipulation, like editing, cropping, splicing or drawing. Nevertheless, to be able to understand the results and draw safe conclusions avoiding false-positives a level of familiarity with image forensics is required.

A critical mind and an eye for detail

As mentioned above, there is no golden rule on how to verify videos. The above steps are merely exhaustive, but they can be a good start. But as new methods of detection are developed, so are new manipulation methods – in a game that doesn’t seem to end. The commercialization of the technology behind deepfakes through openly accessible applications like Zao or Doublicat is making matters worse driving the “democratization of propaganda”. What remains most important and independent of the tools that can be used for the detection of manipulated media is to approach any kind of online information (especially user generated content) with a critical mind and an eye for detail. Traditional steps in the verification process, such as checking the source and triangulating all available information still remain central.   

In the effort to tackle mis- and disinformation, collaboration is key. In Digger we work with Truly Media to provide journalists with a working environment where they can collaboratively verify online content. Truly Media is a collaborative platform developed by Athens Technology Center and Deutsche Welle that helps teams of users collect and organise content relevant to an investigation they are carrying out and together decide on how trustworthy the information they have found is.  In order to make the verification process as easy as possible for journalists, Truly Media integrates a lot of the tools and processes mentioned above, while offering a set of image and video tools that aid users in the verification of multimedia content. Truly Media is a commercial platform – for a demo go here.

How to get started?

If you are a beginner in verification or if you would like to learn more about the whole verification process, we would suggest reading the first edition of the Verification Handbook, the Verification Handbook for Investigative Reporting, as well as the latest edition published in April 2020.

Stay tuned and get involved

We will publish regular updates about our technology, external developments and interview experts to learn about ethical, legal and hand-on expertise.

The Digger project is developing a community to share knowledge and initiate collaboration in the field of synthetic media detection. Interested? Follow us on Twitter @Digger_project and send us a DM or leave a comment below.

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Deepfakes have the potential to seriously harm people’s lives and to deter people’s trust in democratic institutions. They also continue to make the headlines. How dangerous are they really?

Deepfakes, although characterized by some as “the dog that never barked”, have in fact the potential to seriously harm people’s lives and to deter people’s trust in democratic institutions. 

Deepfakes continue to make the headlines – the latest news at the time of writing this article being about Donald Trump’s Independence Day deepfake video – which  raised also important legal and ethical issues, almost three years after the term “deepfake” was first coined in the news. Behind the headlines, synthetically generated media content (also known as  deepfakes) have even more serious consequences on individual lives – and especially on the lives of women. Deepfakes are also expected to be increasingly weaponized and combined with other trends and technologies they are expected to heighten security and democracy challenges in areas like cyber-enabled crime, propaganda and disinformation, military deception, and international crises.

“Technical approaches are useful until synthetic media techniques inevitably adapt to them. A perfect deepfake detection system will never exist”.   Sam Gregory, program director of WITNESS

 

It´s a race

Researchers, academics, and industry are all working towards developing deepfake detection algorithms, but developments in the field occur both ways, and as new detection algorithms get better, so do available tools to create deepfakes. As Sam Gregory, program director of WITNESS puts it, “Technical approaches are useful until synthetic media techniques inevitably adapt to them. A perfect deepfake detection system will never exist”. 

Verification of synthetically generated media content is still part of the traditional verification and fact-checking techniques and should be approached in the context of these already existing methods. Even though technology cannot provide a yes-or-no answer in the question “Is this video fake?”, it can greatly aid journalists in the process of assessing the authenticity of deepfakes. That’s why we at the Digger team are working hard to provide journalists with tools that can help them determine if a certain video is real or synthetic. Stay tuned for our how-to article coming up soon!

 

Don’t forget: be active and responsible in your community – and stay healthy!

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Digital verification – Lessons learned from social distancing

Digital verification – Lessons learned from social distancing

Rules are in place to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. One of them is called “social distancing” which helps to stop the transmission of Covid-19. What are the rules concerning Coronavirus information online?

Rules have been introduced across the globe about how to behave in order to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. One of these rules is called “social distancing” which helps to stop the transmission of Covid-19. It recommends we avoid crowds, take public transport at off-peak hours and keep physical distance to other people.  

What are the rules concerning Coronavirus information online? Daily updates about the spread and protection of Covid-19 are crucial and easy to find – online – but not all of them are true. Sharing misinformation online is like refraining from social distancing; tempting, but it could harm people. So how can you contribute to stopping the transmission of dis- and misinformation about Covid-19? These are the rules on how to deal with dubious information online:

1. Ask yourself: Does this information make sense? 

Subsequent questions are: What sources does the information rely on? Where do the numbers come from?

2. Double check the information with reliable sources like; quality journalism, fact-checkers and relevant experts. Here’s how to do that:

  • Google the claim using the main keywords or the headline like in the video below:
  • Golden rule: reverse image search a photo or video
  • Use Google Dorks (a search string that uses advanced search operators) and search on a specific news sites or in a specific timeframe (see image below):
  • Check Twitter lists with reliable sources on Covid-19, like these:
    • Tutorial: Search on Tweetdeck your Twitter List
    • Here is a Twitter list curated by Journalism.Co with reliable journalists and media
    • Here is a Twitter list curated by Jeff Jarvis with medical experts
    • Here is a Twitter list curated by IFCN with national fact-checking organisations

3. Still nothing? Wait or reach out to your doctor.

Remember: Share only what is fact-checked with your family and friends in your FB, WhatsApp and other communities!

Verification of videos and synthetic media

For verification of videos there are some specific rules. Here are the most important ones:

Golden rule: reverse image search a video 

The reverse image search enables a simple and quick check whether a video has been published online before, possibly in another context. This way you might also be able to retrieve the original source of the video. You can use the InVid-Plugin for selecting several thumbnails from the video and reverse search with different tools like Google and Yandex – or you take a screenshot and do the same via Google Images.

Visual content verification

Most video manipulation is still visible with your bare eye. Look at the small details visible in the video. If you think you are watching a fake you might want to check:

  • strange cuts, non-fluent frames can indicate manipulation,
  • does the body actually fit the face of a person and does the body language match the facial expression,
  • is the person on video showing natural behaviour; eg. blinking eyes, movement of eyes, movement of hands? 

To help make it a bit easier you can check the video ‘frame by frame’ with VLC player and check if the colour and shadows are changing in a consistent way that makes sense to you.  

With a precise eye for details you could use the verification plugin with magnifier functionality from InVid/WeVerify that enhances the quality of your zoomed area in video stills.

If there are shadows visible and you are really getting into it, you can determine when on the day the video was filmed with tools like Suncalc. Here is a detailed tutorial on using shadows.

Technical video verification

The devil is in the detail, and the manipulation technology evolves. For well done synthetic video you would need some elaborate algorithms to check manipulation. We’re trying to develop those in the Digger project. What you could try is to focus on audio; check if the acoustics of a video correlate with the scene recorded – is it outside and thus with background noises, are people talking in the background, and does that match the video? And obviously if the audio does not match the lip movements with poorly implemented lip synchronization, it is more likely a fake. Still not sure, consult a forensic expert like anyone on this deepfakes forensics Twitter list.

Reliable sources

Social Media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest and more have taken steps against misinformation about the Coronavirus such as directing users to official sources when they search for Covid-19. 

Here are some helpful trustworthy sources for everyone of us:

  • World Health Organization – The WHO offers daily updates on the pandemic, guidance, and data on the spread. 
  • FirstDraft Resources for Reporters – Guides how to verify and a searchable archive of Coronavirus debunks.
  • Sifting Through the Pandemic – Mike Caufield’s simple and effective educational website teaches how to navigate online information. His approach runs counter to the news reader´s natural instincts. Mike has updated this post specifically for Coronavirus.
  • Fighting the Infodemic: The #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance The #CoronaVirusFacts / #DatosCoronaVirus Alliance unites more than 100 fact-checkers around the world in publishing, sharing and translating facts surrounding the Coronavirus.

Be active and responsible in your community – and stay healthy!

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