Tag Archives: online video

[Update: here’s the WITNESS report I talk about below, Cameras Everywhere]

I read, via The Browser, a GQ profile of AJ Daulerio, editor of Deadspin, sports outpost of Gawker.  Here’s an interesting section I didn’t expect to see, relating to the ethics of raw video:

Perhaps Daulerio’s darkest moment came last spring, when he posted a video of an obviously drunk college girl having sex in a bathroom stall at a sports bar in Bloomington, Indiana. At the time, he was thinking of it as part of a series on fans having sex in bathrooms. (In the fall of 2009, he’d posted a clip of a couple getting it on in a stall at the new Cowboys Stadium.) On May 11, a few days after the video went up, Daulerio received an e-mail from a woman imploring him to take it down. “I know the people in it and it is extreemly [sic] hurtful. please, this is completely unfair,” she wrote. In separate responses, both Daulerio and Darbyshire, the Gawker lawyer, refused to comply. “Best advice I can give you right now: do not make a big deal out of this because, as you can tell, the footage is blurry and you are not identified by name,” Daulerio wrote, assuming the e-mailer was the girl herself.

For the rest of the afternoon, Daulerio and the woman traded five e-mails. Finally, before handing the matter off to Darbyshire, Daulerio wrote, “It’s not getting taken down. I’ve said that. And it’s not a very serious matter. It is a dumb mistake you (or whomever) made while drunk in college. Happens to the best of us.”

The next day, though, he and Darbyshire decided that removing the video was “the best course of action,” Darbyshire says. But by then it had migrated to other sites. And a couple of days after that, Daulerio received a panicked call from the girl’s father. “He had this basic breakdown on the phone,” Daulerio recalled. “The guy is like, ‘You gotta understand, I’ve just been dealing with watching my daughter get fucked in a pile of piss for the past two days.’ “

Daulerio now says he wishes he hadn’t run the video. “It wasn’t funny,” he says. “It was possibly rape. I was trying to kind of put it in that same category [as the Dallas video]. I didn’t really look at the thing close enough to realize there’s maybe something a little more sinister going on here and a little more disturbing.”

As Daulerio himself notes, where it’s not possible to establish that an act witnessed involves consent, and indeed, may involve a sexual violation, a potential crime, there’s a special onus on the publisher not to propagate the video for titillation or humour, especially when videos can circulate so freely and easily.  But where are the written, editorial guidelines to help editors like Daulerio to make better decisions about what they should or shouldn’t publish when it comes user-contributed video raising these kinds of ethical questions, whatever kind of publisher they are?  There aren’t many in public, and those that there are don’t take much account of the ethical or human rights implications (because that’s what we’re talking about here).  When I worked on the Hub, we developed a very detailed set of internal editorial guidelines for dealing with raw video related specifically to human rights (here’s a very condensed public version – if I am permitted to share the full guidelines, I will do so in an update) – and we tested a lot of the content we received or saw against these guidelines.  Trying to make these kinds of editorial decisions is not easy, and we tried our best to explain many decisions in public, to help others facing similar decisions.  On occasion we found the guidelines either too specific, or too vague – sometimes our decisions contradicted the guidelines, because we were exercising judgement rather than applying hard-and-fast rules – but the key thing was that, because we were dealing with a new medium, with new kinds of content emerging all the time that challenged categories and boundaries, we needed some kind of framework to help situate us.

Part of the trouble is that we’re yet to see a genuinely balanced or informative widespread public debate about what constitutes ethical sharing, and ethical publishing of this kind of content.  The debate such as it is tends to resolve primarily into fears about loss of privacy, security, consent and/or dignity (including many in the human rights community), fears about intermediary liability (holding the platforms that receive and host UGC without reviewing it responsible for the content of the videos – not a popular position, but a perennial worry in terms of regulation), and proclamations that this is the new reality, and we’d all best toughen up (as Daulerio initially counsels the emailer in the above quote).   These debates need to move beyond hand-wringing, scare-mongering, and snark-flinging, in order to become a more productive and nuanced contribution to our evolving understanding of privacy, safety and security, and, ultimately, what we mean by transparency.  Seeing nuanced and genuine discussions about editorial decisions like these more widely in journalistic settings may help enrich those debates.  Let me know below if you’ve seen or published any.

As part of my continuing work with WITNESS, I’ve been working on a policy advocacy initiative called Cameras Everywhere (read my old friend and colleague Sam Gregory’s post introducing the work).  The work we’re doing looks in part at the emerging ethics of the online/mobile video environment – more on this soon.  We’ll make sure AJ gets the updates…


[Cross-posted from the YouTube blog]

About a month ago, as part of our series of blogs about human rights and video with, we asked for your thoughts and ideas on some of the key topics on the future of video activism. Now we’re responding to some of your top-voted questions and comments within the Moderator series we set up to facilitate the discussion. We’ve picked out some of the top-rated responses below, and to see the full discussion on privacy, impact, and classification of human rights videos online, click here.

But the conversation only grows from here. This week, we’ve gathered with around 300 activists, nonprofits, and thought leaders in Budapest for Internet at Liberty 2010, a conference that Google is sponsoring in conjunction with the Central European University to examine key issues in online free expression. We’ve been collecting your thoughts on how to keep the Internet safe for online free expression in another Moderator series; many of your ideas will be discussed in the panels and discussions that take place in Hungary. The conference will be live streamed, and we’ll post videos of the session to a special YouTube channel dedicated to the discussions that take place.

People everywhere use platforms like YouTube to share their stories with the world every day. Sometimes those stories are as simple as an idea, a thought or a diary of life through your eyes; other times, those stories expose abuses of power or human rights violations in ways that are changing how justice is served around the world. Whatever you decide to use the web for, we believe it’s vital to a free society to keep the Internet open, and it’s through discussions like these that we can continue to teach each other how to do so.

Steve Grove, Head of News & Politics, YouTube, and Sameer Padania for WITNESS
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[Cross-posted from the YouTube blog.]

Government police shutting down farmer’s protests in China. A tobacco company employing under-age workers in Kazakhstan. Iranian merchants striking to protest tax increases in Tehran. We’ve seen stories like these on our computers and phones every day, and we’ve been documenting many of them on our breaking news feed onCitizentube over the past few months. Videos like these are more than just breaking news images; they’re often political statements meant to bring about change.

Earlier this summer we started a blog series with WITNESS, a human rights video advocacy and training organization, examining the role of online video in human rights. So far we’ve talked about why video matters to human rights and how you can protect yourself and the people you film when uploading to YouTube. In this post, we want to raise some key topics about the future of human rights video online, and to hear your thoughts and ideas in a special Moderator series that we’ve set up on these questions:

How can uploaders balance privacy concerns with the need for wider exposure?

YouTube and other websites give citizens the opportunity to tell stories that would otherwise not get get heard. But what if wider exposure could be harmful to the people you’ve captured on video? At Google and YouTube, we talk a lot about the privacy of your personal data, but what about the privacy of your personal visual identity? There are some exciting technologies that can automatically identify human faces in digital media, but the implications of these technologies need to be considered carefully: if improperly implemented, they could make it even easier for governments and oppressive regimes to identify, track down and arrest activists or protesters (this has happened in Burma and Iran). While we’ve said before that people should consider blurring the faces in human rights videos and getting consent from those they film, inevitably judgment calls need to be made by uploaders who are trying to get footage out quickly to massive audiences to raise awareness. How do you think uploaders can find the right balance?

How can we stay alert to human rights footage without getting de-sensitized to it?

What image first opened your eyes to a human rights issue? In the past, in many countries, human rights images were largely filtered through the news media. But today, nearly everyone has seen a video or photo on the Internet that has made them aware of injustice. With access to these kinds of images getting easier, and more stories appearing from more places, the sheer quantity of this content risks either overwhelming viewers, or desensitizing us to its value. Researchers, educators and legislators are all thinking about how to build media literacy for the virtual age — and human rights is a growing part of that discussion. How do you think people can stay alert to the power of these images without becoming immune to them?

Does human rights content online require some kind of special status?

As many of the examples in this blog series illustrate, human rights video is unique, and it requires special consideration by viewers, activists, legislators and online platforms. At YouTube, our terms of service carve out special exceptions for videos that have educational, scientific, or documentary value. But in many cases, human rights content is subjective and requires special interpretation — and now that video can spread far and wide and can easily be reused and remixed beyond its original context (including by human rights abusers themselves), it’s even more important to follow some common guidelines. Every online hosting platform on the web has its own policies for dealing with this content and slowly, a new set of ethics and guidelines is developing in this arena. What do you think those guidelines should look like? And do you think human rights video deserves some kind of special status across the web? Why or why not?

We’d like to hear your thoughts on these questions. Submit your responses or questions to our Moderator series on Citizentube, in video or in text, and we’ll continue the conversation with thoughts on some of your top-voted submissions in a future post.

Steve Grove, Head of News & Politics, YouTube, and Sameer Padania for WITNESS

[Originally published on the YouTube blog.]

Last week we started a blog series with WITNESS, a human rights video advocacy and training organization, highlighting the role that online video is playing in human rights advocacy. And though activists around the world have shown how powerful YouTube can be as a tool to raise awareness of human rights violations, this kind of work opens up new risks, online and offline. This post is designed to help you maximize the effect of your human rights videos while protecting those you’re trying to help — and ensuring your videos don’t get taken down from YouTube.

Before you even start shooting video, it’s important to assess the risk, understand your audience, and develop your message. This short animation, part of a series that WITNESS released, will help you think through your preparation:

One of the most important factors in creating human rights video is protecting the people you feature. In the past, videographers could generally control the size and scope of their audience, but nowadays it’s safe to assume that if a human rights video is online, it’s only a matter of time before the offenders see it. So it’s always good practice to get informed consent from the people you film. That means making sure they understand the possible negative consequences of appearing in your video. You can also blur or obscure faces, to mitigate the ability of authorities to reveal someones identity or location. This is important: authorities in Burma, for example, have used online footage of protests to identify and arrest activists. Here’s a good example of protecting an interviewee’s voice and face, from a human rights organization in Israel:

But you don’t need editing software to protect someones identity. You can do it with back-lighting, too, as in this video:

Once you’ve addressed the ethical and safety issues of your video, it’s time to think about distribution. In some cases, it’s not important how many people see your video, but who sees it. Activists worldwide use YouTube to post human rights footage and advocacy videos, but in some cases it may not be the best or only choice. You might have better results by keeping your footage private, but threatening to make it public — or you may not need to put the video online at all and hold a local screening instead.

That said, your potential to reach a large audience online is a big advantage. If you do decide to post your human rights footage to YouTube, you should thoroughly read our Community Guidelines to understand what kind of content is acceptable on the site. Though we don’t accept violent or graphic content on YouTube, exceptions are made for content that is educational, scientific or documentary in nature. When reviewing the content that is flagged by our community, our bias is toward free expression — with necessary limits to ensure the site remains a safe and vibrant platform for the discussion of ideas. Understanding the context surrounding your content, and its original intent, is important for our team. Here are a few things you can do to protect your videos and keep them on the site.

  1. Add as much context as possible. Titling and tagging your video correctly is the best way to add context to your videos. When our team is reviewing flagged content, titles or tags with words as simple as “human rights” or “police abuse” will help us understand the context of the footage you’re uploading. Try to add some specific information into the description: who is in the video, what is happening, where and when did it happen, and why. You can also add this detail directly onto the video itself, using our annotations tool.
  2. Get consent. As we mentioned before, it’s important to get the consent of those you’re filming. If someone flags your video and complains about appearing in it, we may have it taken down, particularly if they are not a public figure, are in a private place, or make other claims of harassment.
  3. Understand local laws. Given the global scope of the YouTube platform, we comply with different sets of laws in the various countries in which we’re launched (to see where we’re launched, go to the footer and click “Worldwide”). If the content in your video is illegal in one of these countries, we must comply with the local formal legal processes. For instance, that means that in Germany we don’t stream videos that are sympathetic to Nazism. Know your local laws before you upload.
  4. Understand copyright. It’s important to have a good handle on our copyright policies. If someone makes a claim against your video, perhaps because they believe they own the soundtrack or the footage itself, you can file a counter-notice. Though it’s not YouTube’s role to make fair use judgments on content, here is ahelpful guide that WITNESS recommends you consult on fair use issues in online video, and some ethical considerations for when you’re re-mixing human rights footage. Many content creators license their videos and audio for re-use with Creative Commons licenses.
  5. Be in touch with us. We want to hear from you. If you believe your account has been hacked, for example, visit our Help Center to let us know, and we’ll investigate. We also track breaking news videos from citizen sources at CitizenTube, our news and political blog. Send us a link to your video in the comments section or tweet it to @citizentube.

Steve Grove, Head of News & Politics, YouTube, and Sameer Padania for WITNESS

[Originally published on the YouTube blog.]

A year ago this weekend, Tehran erupted in protest at the disputed results of Iran’s tenth presidential election. In the severe government crackdown that followed, documented on cameras and uploaded by citizens to YouTube, no moment has been seen more than the death of Neda Agha Soltan, a young musician whose brutal killing by a sniper became the rallying cry for Iran’s opposition Green Movement. The anonymous videos of her death even won a prestigious George Polk award for journalism last year.

Today on the YouTube homepage, we’re featuring a documentary from director Antony Thomas and HBO, entitled “For Neda”. The film highlights how citizen reporting has become so important to human rights that even world leaders are paying attention to it. For example, as you’ll see in “For Neda,” President Obama talks about watching the video of Neda’s death, calling it “heartbreaking” and “unjust.”

We’re also taking this opportunity to begin a series of blog posts in partnership with WITNESS, an international human rights organization that supports people using video to document and expose human rights violations, to explore these issues.

How has video become such an important part of human rights advocacy worldwide? At its heart, human rights video is about making something visible that was not visible before. Seeing human rights abuses with our own eyes is very different than reading about the same abuses in a story or a blog post or a Tweet. In the past, we mainly saw these kinds of images in the nightly news or in documentaries — and even then only occasionally. But now that camera usage and access to the Internet is much more widespread (including in many developing countries), we encounter human rights images much more directly. For example, BurmaTibet and Iran are places where it’s difficult for local or international media to report, so when mass protests were met with violent force, it falls on ordinary people to try to get images out.

Human rights video is about more than capturing images of abuse as they happen, however. Direct testimony from victims or local activists can provide powerful and compelling evidence of human rights violations. Testimonies like that of “Mary,” a Zimbabwean political activist who was abducted, raped and beaten in a secret torture center after the disputed 2008 presidential elections in Zimbabwe, have unique power to help us see what those who have suffered human rights abuses see, to feel what they feel, and to hear what they want to happen.

Videos alone aren’t usually enough; in order to make an impact, activists organize around the content. Sometimes organization is required simply to ensure the content finds an audience: in Iran, it was a networked web of activists who organized proxy servers and emailed footage to a diaspora outside of the country to ensure the videos got around the government’s block of YouTube. Other times, coordinated campaigns ensure that citizens are called to action in courts, public squares or parliaments, as has happened in BrazilKenyaIndia or in the International Criminal Court. This isn’t a phenomenon confined to developing countries or repressive regimes; it’s also happening in the U.S. Testimony as part of a campaign against elder abuse across the U.S. has helped expose stories that would otherwise go untold, and to pass legislation that improves the lives of millions of citizens. In our next post, we’ll talk more specifically about what you can do to make sure videos you’ve uploaded or care about can have maximum impact for human rights.

As online spaces become more and more important for sharing and accessing information, we believe that access to the Internet itself is becoming a key factor in human rights in the 21st century. To make that a reality, governments, businesses, activists and citizens need to take a collective stand to ensure that video can shine a light into the darkest corners of human society, providing paths to justice to those who need it most. Both at WITNESS and at YouTube we’re committed to helping build a global movement for human rights video that does just that.

Steve Grove, Head of News & Politics, YouTube, and Sameer Padania for WITNESS