Is it real? Witness builds an app to verify user-submitted content

 

By Justin Ellis

By now, it’s a familiar cycle: An amazing image is discovered — and then proven to be fake.

Whether it’s photos of flooding during Hurricane Sandy, or videos of eagles stealing babies, it’s not always easy to detect fakery. And when you think of the number of videos and photos produced by our phones each day, it can be problematic for news organizations trying to deal with submissions from readers.

The human rights organization Witness is developing a new app that aims to make it easier to verify the authenticity of video, photos, or audio created and shared from mobile devices. Witness is partnering with The Guardian Project to build the app with $320,000 in funding from Knight Foundation. The InformaCam app, one of several winners in the mobile round of the Knight News Challenge, would bring metadata to the forefront, allowing journalists, human rights organizations, and others to better identify the origins of a photo or video.

“InformaCam is our way to respond to this question of media authentication and model some solutions we hope people will adopt,” said Sam Gregory, program director for Witness.

Video is at the heart of what Witness does, encouraging people around the world to document human rights abuses in their community. (Witness also collaborated with The Guardian Project on a project that might be thought of as the flip side of InformaCam: ObscuraCam, a camera app that allows users to quickly conceal the identity of people in a photo by pixelating faces and removing metadata.)

The spread of smartphones and other devices with capable of shooting photos and videos has been a boon to human rights campaigns, but it’s also brought along new sets of problems. Whether someone is shooting video on the streets of Syria, Burma, or Libya, the question remains: Is it real? It’s a concern groups like Witness share with many media organizations that now rely on submitted video to amplify their journalism.

Read more at Niemanlab.org

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.