Apart from Google’s driverless car website that advocates for transparency, Google wants to help the media find eyewitness videos and make sure they are trustworthy. To do that, Google on Thursday launched Youtube Newswire which gathers together and verifies eyewitness videos from current events so news outlets can add them to their stories. 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.
The service is a joint project between the News Lab at Google and Storyful, a News Corp-owned startup that focuses on news coming from the social Web. The two companies have partnered since 2011, when protests broke out in Egypt’s Tahrir Square. “The role of the eyewitness has never had a more vital place in the newsgathering process,” said Oliva Ma, who heads the News Lab. “It’s almost impossible to turn on the news during a breaking event without seeing raw video uploaded by a YouTube user somewhere across the globe.”
“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,” Olivia Ma wrote. “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 move underscores tech giants’ increasing role in helping the media to produce news. Facebook launched a similar service with Storyful last year, called FB Newswire. YouTube Newswire also highlights how important crowd-sourced video has become, especially as more people use smartphone cameras to document what’s going on around them.
YouTube is the largest video site in the world, with 1 billion unique visitors a month. Those people are watching more than 5 million hours of news video on YouTube everyday, according to Ma. Some of the videos on the YouTube Newswire features stories that made headlines: A shooting at a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and floods in Texas and Oklahoma. The videos come from both eyewitness and local newspapers, and have been verified by Storyful’s team of editors.
In addition to the YouTube Newswire, YouTube on Thursday announced two other projects that have to do with eyewitness journalism. One of the projects, called the First Draft Coalition, will serve as an educational resource for journalists — helping them to verify eyewitness videos and consider the ethics of using them in stories. The other is a partnership with the Witness Media Lab, focused on eyewitness videos having to do with human rights issues reports cnet.