We often talk about how YouTube has revolutionized entertainment and communication, but influence of social video goes far beyond making us laugh. YouTube is increasingly becoming a home for firsthand video taken of the various crises taking place across the world. In places like Syria, Sudan and the Ukraine, where the mainstream press finds its access severely limited or restricted entirely, human rights organizations are increasingly relying on citizen journalism to provide a more accurate picture of conditions on the ground and to document abuse.
Now, Amnesty International is taking steps to help reporters and aid workers make sense of the often chaotic flow of video content from global crisis zones, since many activists will upload multiple versions of a video over a period of weeks or months to avoid take-down requests by authorities. The organization has thus created the The Citizen Evidence Lab, which contains tutorials and step-by-step instructions for verifying the authenticity of a video upload. The site provides a walkthrough on how to determine the original upload date and location of a clip, and help in searching for earlier postings to more accurately nail down a timeline for the events depicted. The site also offers some basic tips for amateur internet sleuths on how to gauge the veracity of the person who uploaded the video.
Social media and especially social video have changed the way reporters assemble new stories and the way human rights organizations gather information. However these new forms of media are still unfamiliar to many working in related fields. The fact that an organization like Amnesty International has devoted resources to educating people in the proper use of YouTube should be an indicator of how significant the medium has become to world events.