User-generated video & authentication: Sri Lanka

Posted on October 14, 2009 by Grace Lile

In August a video showing what appeared to be the cold-blooded execution of Tamils by Sri Lankan soldiers was released by the group Democracy in Sri Lanka and aired on Channel 4 news in the UK. Dan Verderosa has an excellent blog post on the Hub (“Should You Believe Your Eyes? Allegations of Doctored Video from Sri Lanka”) discussing issues of authentication and different approaches to showing the video (or not), touching on technology, ethics and media literacy. One brief snippet:

“Maintaining the perceived reality of video will be paramount. But in a web-based world, it would be infeasible for experts to examine every bit of footage that finds its way online. Is it enough to caution, as Channel 4 News did, “We cannot verify the authenticity or veracity of this footage”? Absent concrete means of authentication, perhaps the best advocates and human rights groups can do is to use their in-house expertise to provide context through which to view and understand a given video. On the Hub, WITNESS contacts users who post videos whose authenticity is in question, and also contacts local groups who may be able to contextualize the footage. But still, WITNESS does not vouch for the veracity, accuracy, or authenticity of content uploaded to the Hub, and encourages users to perform their own fact-checking and verification processes. Viewers and advocates alike must be vigilant. Like those surrounding the Sri Lanka video, in an open, technologically advanced landscape, questions about verifying authenticity abound.”

Read the full post, watch the video and comment on the Hub.

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