New Project Vets Syrian YouTube Videos
People all around the world turn to citizen-made YouTube videos for news now, according to a new Pew Research Center study. But what does that mean for viewers? How can they know the videos are real and fair? A New York Times project, launched last month, tries to do some of that verifying for videos coming out of Syria. The editor in charge, David Goodman, talked with TechPresident about how exactly Times reporters vet rebels' videos from their desks in New York.
The videos can't ever be verified to the standard of more traditional New York Times reporting, as they weren't made by Times reporters on the ground there, Goodman said. Instead, he focuses on conveying how much he does and doesn't know about each video, which comes with short sections describing "What We Know," "What We Don't Know" and "Other Videos" that back up the posted video.
When choosing which videos to post, Goodman and his colleagues look for posters who have a good reputation among others, Goodman said. They contact sources they have on the ground in Lebanon, to ask which Syrians those sources follow. They direct message YouTube posters, asking their names and locations. They look for people who are living closest to Syria, although they can get bad information from people close to the action as well, Goodman told TechPresident. They sometimes don't post videos about which they have too many questions.
"There are a lot of videos that take hours to verify," Goodman said. Maintaining the site is a full-time project for him now.
He thinks people enjoy seeing open, in-progress, uncertain reporting. "It's very in keeping with this social media consumption of news where everything is a work in progress and there's no problem showing that," he said.