Tracking Extremist Videos on Social Media - A Solution

Rightly so, Social Media companies are frantically - and belatedly - trying to delete the video from last week that was live-streamed as a Far Right Terrorist murdered 50 innocent Muslims at prayer.

Technically, doing so is simple enough when a full, unedited video is simply re-posted, but a bit tricky when a video is clipped, edited or altered in some way, either using a mobile app or a desktop video editing suite.

Are there automated solutions ? No. But there can be, in the short term and the long term.

In The Short Term

It's about algorithms. You will probably already know that images, even altered, even cropped, can be 'matched' - Reverse Image Search Engines such as Google Images and TinyEye are great for this. They assist in finding the source images where copyright is uncertain, or there is a suspicion that an image has been edited.

Social media companies choose to develop their own algorithms and mathematical patterns, and the work is bespoke and inhouse. A simple solution is for the SocMedCo's to co-operate, share and perfect. Doing so would not only publicly demonstrate a willingness to attack the problem, but would go someway to beating it. But not far enough.

In The Long Term

A solution which would solve the issue on an ongoing basis is to permanently embed tracking data into the original video.

This is done - for still images - by most (but not all) cameras. It's called EXIF and you probably haven't heard of it. It encodes data into an image confirming the source. It's only applied to certain formats, and it's often 'dropped' when edited.

To expand this to video in a meaningful way, a lot of things need to happen:

Mobile phone and video camera manufacturers need to :
  • Agree a standard for this data, under JEIDA/JEITA/CIPA specifications.
  • Embed this new standard in all operating system upgrades.
  • Embed this new standard in all new models.
Mobile phone application designers (third-party, non OEM) need to : 
  • Update their software to continue to embed the data even after alterations.
Software platforms such as iStore and Google Play need to :
  • Withdraw the platforming of software that has not been suitably upgraded, after a suitable period of time.
Desktop Video Application Developers need to :
  • Update their software to embed the data and remove the option to wipe or overwrite the data.
Social Media Companies need to :
  • Link their systems together to enable fast tracking and removal.
Sound simple, right ? Okay, it's not, it' a lot of boxes to tick. But these steps are routinely taken when a new image format appears, or a new 'feature' is developed by a competitor. Development is ongoing in technology in all aspects, and this would merely be another aspect of it. It's doable, with the will.

Would It Work ?

For most sharers, yes. Most are unable or unwilling to pend the time to pass video through an edit suite to hide the original data.

Would It Stop Innocent Social Sharing ?

No. It would be invisible. You're probably already sharing images with EXIF data, daily.

Would It Stop All Extremist Sharing ?

No. Like burglary prevention or hacking, a few simple steps prevent 99% of the offences, and you'll never be able to stop the most determined ones. But it would work in almost all cases. 

I have copied this to the relevant industry bodies and await their reponse.