Secrets to Searching for Video Footage (AI Assistance In Your Future?)

Secrets to Searching for Video Footage by Aric Toler.

From the post:

Much of Bellingcat’s work requires intense research into particular events, which includes finding every possible photograph, video and witness account that will help inform our analysis. Perhaps most notably, we exhaustively researched the events surrounding the shoot down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) over eastern Ukraine.

The photographs and videos taken near the crash in eastern Ukraine were not particularly difficult to find, as they were widely publicized. However, locating over a dozen photographs and videos of the Russian convoy transporting the Buk anti-aircraft missile launcher that shot down MH17 three weeks before the tragedy was much harder, and required both intense investigation on social networks and some creative thinking.

Most of these videos were shared on Russian-language social networks and YouTube, and did not involve another type of video that is much more important today than it was in 2014 — live streaming. Bellingcat has also made an effort to compile all user-generated videos of the events in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017, providing a database of livestreamed videos on platforms like Periscope, Ustream and Facebook Live, along with footage uploaded after the protest onto platforms like Twitter and YouTube.

Verifying videos is important, as detailed in this Bellingcat guide, but first you have to find them. This guide will provide advice and some tips on how to gather as much video as possible on a particular event, whether it is videos from witnesses of a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. For most examples in this guide, we will assume that the event is a large protest or demonstration, but the same advice is applicable to other events.

I was amused by this description of Snapchat and Instagram:


Snapchat and Instagram are two very common sources for videos, but also two of the most difficult platforms to trawl for clips. Neither has an intuitive search interface that easily allows researchers to sort through and collect videos.

I’m certain that’s true but a trained AI could sort out videos obtained by overly broad requests. As I’m fond of pointing out, not 100% accuracy but you can’t get that with humans either.

Augment your searching with a tireless AI. For best results, add or consult a librarian as well.

PS: I have other concerns at the moment but a subset of the Bellingcat Charlottesville database would make a nice training basis for an AI, which could then be loosed on Instagram and other sources to discover more videos. The usual stumbling block for AI projects being human curated material, which Bellingcat has already supplied.

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