Eyewitness footage uploaded to YouTube has become a staple part of breaking news, often adding vital context and information to events such as the Ferguson protests and Charlie Hebdo attacks. Now, Google wants to help viewers and journalists alike find the most relevant footage on YouTube, and has launched a service named YouTube Newswire to provide "a curated feed of the most newsworthy eyewitness videos of the day."
Video streams on the newly-launched YouTube Newswire channel cover stories such as the Charleston church shooting (a playlist which includes footage from local newspaper The State Newspaper), and floods in Texas and Oklahoma (which is almost entirely comprised of user-generated footage of rising water and storms). The service will cover both global and regional news, says YouTube, with a Twitter feed and a daily newsletter announcing the latest and best videos.
"More than 5 million hours of news video is watched on YouTube every day."
"Today, more than 5 million hours of news video is watched on YouTube every day, and the role of the eyewitness has never had a more vital place in the newsgathering process," writes Olivia Ma, head of strategy and operations at Google's News Lab, in a blog post. "We live in a world where anyone can bear witness to what is happening around them and share it with a global audience, and YouTube has become a primary home for this powerful, first-person documentary footage."
The service is launching in partnership with social news agency Storyful, whose team of journalists will work to verify footage. Storyful has worked with YouTube in the past as well as companies like Facebook, and even helped to launch the social network's own news service, FB Newswire, last year. Storyful's blog shows the company's ability to identify hoax videos — for example, calling out Jimmy Kimmel's "Worst Twerk Fail EVER" video as a set-up four days before the TV host revealed it was fake. Storyful's team came to their conclusion after spotting a number of contextual clues within the footage, as well as noting that the video was not being monetized — unusual for a viral hit.
YouTube believes that journalists should also be able to spot such hoaxes, and alongside YouTube Newswire, the company is also launching The First Draft Coalition: an forthcoming educational resource created by experts such as Bellingcat (a site founded by Eliot Higgins, a British citizen journalist) which will teach people how to verify eyewitness footage. The company is also collaborating on a third venture named The WITNESS Media Lab which will produce a series of "in-depth projects that focus on human rights struggles as seen from the perspective of those who live, witness, and experience them."