The Indian telecom sector has taken off like no other since the early 21st century. Easier regulations, easy liquidity, improving technology and above all, cheap handsets have seen a boom in cellphone usage across the country. Over the past four or five years, data accessibility and affordable rates have seen a quantum jump in usage. While this has had many beneficial affects, there is one area in which data usage has also given rise to a serious social crisis – that of fake videos.

Altered and outright false videos have flooded WhatsApp groups and other social media platforms. While some of these are innocuous, the majority of them are nothing but false propaganda or narratives looking to create a public panic. Unfortunately, this has led to serious and tragic consequences. The most visible among these has been the lynchings over a a fake video of child kidnapping that has been circulating across the country. Ironically, the original, full length video, which was sourced from Pakistan, was targeted at creating awareness about child kidnapping in Karachi. But the altered version maliciously edited out the part in which the “kidnappers’ return with the child and hold up a banner advising people to be careful.

For starters, the Amnesty International YouTube DataViewer ( is an excellent tool to check videos.
Past the YouTube video’s URL into the DataViewer and it gives you a series of screenshots/thumbnails from the video. It also gives you other details about the video such as the id, date and time of upload as well as a series of frame-grabs that can be use for a reverse image search. Adding keywords into the reverse image search mix also helps greatly, since it helps to narrow down the search to a specific context.

A second option is to isntall the InVid verification tool as an extension on your Chrome browser. Once you enter a video URL into the field, it returns a trove of information, including metadata, still frames, context. It also offers additional tools such as magnifier, key frames in the video, and snapshots that you can run a reverse image search for. It also gives you the option of using Google, Yandex, for reverse image search, besides Twitter video search.
The key frame extractor and magnifier tools can be used to study the images in granular details, and often lead to clues that can reveal the origin of the video.

A good way of also fact-checking video is to use mapping tools, such as Google, which offer a rich palette of maps and satellite imagery. This allows the fact checker to double-check landmarks and geographical markers that can pinpoint both location and timing. The BBC recently did a forensic video fact check of a video of Cameroonian soldiers executing two women and two children. Using video geomapping they were able to demolish the Cameroon government’s claim that the killings were carried out by their Army personnel. What’s more, using satellite mapping, they were also able to determine when the killings took place.

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