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    Strengthening Citizen Journalism Through Transparency

    Citizen Evidence Lab assists in verifying footage and images submitted by citizen journalists.

    Globally more people have access to cell phones than to proper sanitation. Combine this with the fact that news outlets have slashed their budgets and you can see why the role of citizen journalism is increasingly important as a source for information. Often using mobile phones, locals on the ground have been able to capture protests, conflict, and human rights abuses in regions with limited access for reporters. Not only is the work of citizen journalists being published in media outlets, but it can also be utilized to inform policies and humanitarian aid directives.

    But how can we validate photos and footage that have been submitted by citizen journalists? Thanks to Amnesty International, the process has become more streamlined using their new site Citizen Evidence Lab. The website features a step-by-step process for analyzing pictures and footage which includes using reverse image searches and a ‘Stress Test’ that asks basic questions about the video’s uploader and content. Video can also be evaluated using the YouTube Data Viewer which extracts metadata, giving viewers a more accurate idea of when and where the video was shot. Additionally the site has case studies and sample exercises. Christoph Koettl developed the project and says, “We don’t see a lot of manipulated videos, but we do see a lot of videos shared in the wrong context—either old footage or the completely wrong location or country.”

    The site is still a work in progress and Koettl will make changes based on feedback he receives from users. He also hopes that it will eventually evolve into a database which people can use to find authenticated media.