In today’s world, where information flows freely and rapidly, news organizations face the challenging task of determining what is real and what is not. Nowhere is this challenge more prevalent than in the coverage of conflicts, such as the war in Gaza. With limited access on the ground, journalists rely on a flood of videos from various sources to piece together the truth and shed light on the complex situation.
This inundation of video footage is both illuminating and troubling. It allows news organizations to bring the reality of the war to audiences around the world, but it also presents them with a daunting task of sifting through an overwhelming amount of content. In an era where everyone carries a phone with a video camera, the aftermath of a news event is no longer enough. Audiences now expect to be a part of the shared viewing experience and to learn alongside journalists.
Wendy McMahon, president of CBS News and Stations, emphasizes the importance of this shift in audience expectations. She highlights the need for news organizations to comb through videos posted on various platforms like X, YouTube, Instagram, Telegram, and Facebook to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date account of what is happening in Gaza. However, this task is not without its challenges, as many of these videos are harrowing, filled with images of destruction, suffering, and loss. Those tasked with reviewing them face what is known as “vicarious trauma.”
Combatants on both sides of the conflict also recognize the power of videos in shaping public opinion. In an effort to control the narrative, some Hamas members wore cameras to document their actions, while Israel compiled and disseminated graphic imagery of the war. This sophisticated use of social media complicates the task of news organizations even further, as there is an abundance of information and content to sort through.
Nonetheless, news organizations are dedicated to the pursuit of truth and are constantly evaluating the balance between conveying reality and protecting viewers from graphic and traumatizing images. They are aware that excessive exposure to violence can desensitize audiences but understand that the ongoing nature of the conflict itself is a crucial element of the story.
Recently, several instances of misinformation and fake videos have surfaced online. These include manipulated footage of Bella Hadid, a model of Palestinian descent, falsely denouncing Hamas’ attack in Israel, and videos portraying events that never actually occurred, like a body in Gaza mysteriously moving. Uncovering the truth behind these videos requires the sleuthing skills of journalists trained in video analysis and fact-checking. They rely on search engines and expertise to identify deepfakes, images from past conflicts passed off as new, and even video game footage posing as real.
While the threat of artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential to create highly convincing deepfake videos is a concern, experts argue that AI’s role in the current war is limited. James Law, editor-in-chief at Storyful, stresses that AI is still not as powerful as people believe. Instead, journalists predominantly use video and other publicly available material in their investigations. This approach, known as open-source reporting, has become increasingly valuable in recent weeks. News organizations like Storyful are adept at pulling together various sources, such as mapping software, flight-tracking data, security camera footage, and news agency videos, to construct a comprehensive and accurate account of events.
Through open-source reporting, news organizations have been able to shed light on critical incidents within the war. CNN’s investigation uncovered the grim reality of a Hamas attack on an outdoor concert, revealing how concertgoers were directed towards shelters that turned out to be dangerous. The New York Times used video and Telegram postings to trace false claims about Israelis settling in a Muslim area of Russia, which led to a violent mob attack. The Washington Post utilized satellite images, video clips, and photos to track the movements of Israeli forces in Gaza during the initial incursion.
As the flood of videos continues, news organizations remain committed to their responsibility of providing accurate and reliable information to the public. Their diligent efforts in sifting through overwhelming amounts of content, analyzing videos, and verifying facts ensure that the stories they tell reflect the truth on the ground.
Q: What is open-source reporting?
Open-source reporting is an investigative approach that relies on publicly available information, such as videos, images, social media posts, and other digital content, to gather data and tell comprehensive stories. It involves cross-referencing and verifying different sources to build an accurate account of events.
Q: What are deepfakes?
Deepfakes are highly convincing manipulated videos or images that use artificial intelligence algorithms to alter or replace content. They can create realistic portrayals of individuals saying or doing things they never actually did. Deepfakes pose challenges to the authenticity and reliability of visual media.
Q: How do news organizations verify the authenticity of videos?
News organizations employ various techniques to verify the authenticity of videos. These include using search engines to identify similar videos from past conflicts, analyzing metadata, cross-referencing multiple sources, consulting experts in video forensics, and utilizing in-house fact-checking teams. The aim is to ensure that videos used in reporting are not misleading or manipulated.