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EyeWitness’ App Aims to Expose War Criminals

A new app aims to take on the challenges of documenting atrocities in remote corners of the world with secure, easy-to-verify footage –- and help bring the perpetrators to justice.

The eyeWitness app, which was developed by the International Bar Association and is currently only available for Android devices, is designed to allow civilians and journalists to record, store and send footage that can later be verified for use in media coverage or legal cases.

Social media videos and photographs that come out of conflict zones are often difficult or impossible to fact-check, and the people who took them might be unwilling or unable to appear in a court of law.

“Most of all the videos you see on social media are simply taken by individuals who want to tell this story,” said Mark Ellis, executive director of the IBA. “The only way those videos become usable is if the individual who took it is able to testify.”

EyeWitness to Atrocities verifies footage as soon as it’s uploaded by tracking its attached metadata, or information about the footage. This includes when and where the footage was taken, device movement data and the location of surrounding objects like cell towers and Wi-Fi networks, and all of this information can be used to verify the authenticity of footage.

The app automatically records the GPS coordinates of where the image was captured, and stores the image in a vault maintained by LexisNexis, the world’s largest electronic database for legal information and public records.

“Foremost in my mind was to become advocates of these videos so they didn’t have a lifespan of a couple hours on social media,” Ellis said.