InVID : video verification project involving developers, academics and journalists
Short for ‘In video veritas’ (in video, there is truth), InVID is creating a platform that allows journalists to verify video content from social networks more easily.
The EU Horizon2020 funded InVID project embarked on a mission to create a platform to detect, authenticate and check the reliability and accuracy of newsworthy video files and video content spread via social media. Although many initiatives have since been developed to fight fake news, few of them have offered solutions for video specifically:
“One of the most interesting things that has happened in information and communication in the last 15 years is the rise of user generated content (photos, videos etc.),” says Denis Teyssou, InVID’s innovation manager and head of AFP Medialab, who’s one of the consortium partners. “This also comes with the difficulty of verifying this content created by the audience.”
In an attempt to solve this challenge, the InVID platform focuses on digital files as well as contextual and user rights verifications of user-generated video on social networks. InVID started in January 2016 with journalism partners including Deutsche Welle and AFP. AFP, Deutsche Welle and the Center for Research and Technology Hellas had been partners in previous European projects and InVID started from that:
“We discussed a new collaboration around video and we came up with the idea of verification, which was a very interesting field for research and development,” adds Teyssou.
The project is coordinated by the Center for Research and Technology Hellas.
The value of partnerships
InVID is also a partner in the First Draft News network, which aims to raise awareness and address challenges relating to trust and truth in the digital age. Together with its partners, First Draft News is tackling common issues, including ways to streamline the verification process, improve the experience of eyewitnesses and increase news literacy.
Through this partnership, InVID French partner AFP has been involved in CrossCheck, a collective effort of European newsrooms to fact-check news in light of French presidential election in the spring of 2017. Being a core partner of First Draft News network was a key asset for InVID because it allowed us to learn from the “verification community” and to reach the community members to spread the tools we are developing.
Using a design thinking methodology, we participated and observed the CrossCheck initiative and conceived the InVID plugin during that process, as a kind of “Swiss army knife” offering journalists several tools to ease and speed up their verification processes.
There were some challenges the InVID team is facing, according to Teyssou. First, fake news spreads quickly from platform to platform. And while some platforms have open APIs and allow advanced search, others are closed, which makes verification more difficult. Finally, most social networks erase the original metadata of multimedia content.
In addition, managing a multidisciplinary project between different cultures can be complicated at times, although Teyssou emphasises the benefits of such collaboration. These include reaching an international market or community, expanded access to knowledge from the scientific community, and stepping out of your comfort zone encourages you to start thinking out of the box.
“Basically, scientists do science, engineers work on integration and APIs, and journalists work on user requirements, tests, evaluation, and dissemination,” Teyssou explains. “And regular teleconferences, videoconferences, working online and sharing documents, and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) helped bridge the geographical gap between the partners and enabled collaboration across these various professional backgrounds.”
Open source application
In response to the growing attention for the fake news problem, InVID released a free browser plug-in in July to help journalists verify images and videos and to debunk fake video news. A couple of months later, it had been downloaded more than 500 times and received good feedback on social networks.
The plugin is available for Chrome and Firefox and will be maintained, refined and enhanced until the end of the project in late 2018. The plugin code has been provided in open source under a MIT license. Making the tool as widely available as possible allows them to get feedback from users, so they can continue to improve it:
“So far we got some nice and encouraging comments from verification experts on social networks, and we hope to get valuable feedback from the community to develop more tools and improve the existing ones,” says Teyssou.
By pasting a URL to a YouTube or Facebook video into the tool, the user can analyse its origins, including when it was uploaded, the locations featured and thumbnails retrieved from different search engines. Various options make closer inspection of the video possible, such as a magnifier and a reverse image search on several search engines.
The InVID team is currently also working on a platform which helps users discover newsworthy videos, and a web application that helps verify those videos.