Last month, the police arrested seven Egyptians after photos and videos of audience members at a MAshrou’ Leila concert waving a rainbow flag went viral on social media. They were charged with “promoting homosexuality,” and since then, the Washington Post reports that dozens more have been arrested, “Some … for waving rainbow flags, and others for their Facebook posts.” Egypt’s security forces have increased the use of online surveillance and entrapment against the LGBTQ community. LGBTQ people in Egypt have been targeted for harassment, entrapment, arrest, and prosecution since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took power in late 2013. In this environment, the images were an incredible show of resistance-But clearly, they carry risk as well.
It is precisely the places where video is the most risky that it is the most important. Video for human rights–whether it is documenting a joyous moment of protest or a dangerous human rights abuse taking place – is a delicate balance between verifiable, reliable video and the privacy and safety of vulnerable people. Often times, the more verifiable a video, the more likely it is to reveal identity of targets of human rights abuses or protesters. And it’s not just human rights video. Even if you’re just filming your kids at the playground on your cellphone, it’s important to think about consent, safety, and privacy whenever your camera is on- and in some places, it may even be required by law. In fact,all sorts of people, from schoolteachers to survivors of domestic violence to LGBTQ people may need privacy in day-to-day situations.
Do you have to stop filming? That’s not a practical solution….but you can take steps to protect identity, including editing videos before you share them. And as we shared in August, YouTube has released an updated blur feature that makes it possible to blur faces in videos on their platform:
YouTube’s blurring feature has existed since 2012… In 2016, we worked with YouTube to update the tool so that users could select specific areas to blur–a great improvement that allowed users to blur not only faces, but tattoos, brands, or anything else in a video. This option, called custom blur, still exists in the same form.[YouTube’s updated blurring feature] makes it much easier to select individual faces in a video to blur. In the old version, you could blur all faces or select specific areas to blur. In the new tool, your video is processed and all the faces detected are shown on a grid. All you have to do is click any face on the grid to blur it throughout the video.
We promised you an updated how-to video on the YouTube blurring feature, and today we’re sharing it with you. In under four minutes, you can learn how to use this tool as part of the steps you take to protect identity.
Creating and sharing videos ethically and safely doesn’t end with blurring faces. Check out these WITNESS resources on concealing and protecting identity.