How we debunked a fake EgyptAir crash video
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For the past few days, a video showing panicking passengers in an airplane cabin has been circulating on social media. The caption claims that this footage shows “the EgyptAir flight before the crash” in reference to the Paris to Cairo flight that plunged into the Mediterranean Sea on May 19, killing all 66 people on board. But this video is actually a fake. We’ll walk you through three easy steps so you can check if a video like this is fake yourself.
The video shows passengers screaming as the plane goes through intense turbulence. It was first posted on May 23, 2016 by a social media user in Pakistan, before it was picked up by other social media accounts. The caption claims that the video was filmed just before the EgyptAir airbus MS804 crashed into the Mediterranean.
On several occasions, you can hear frightened passengers cry out “Allahu Akbar”, which means “God is greatest” in Arabic and is often said as a prayer before death.
This video only got about 60,000 views online -- it isn’t like it went viral or anything. However, quite a few Egyptian Facebook users shared the video, praising the courage of the person who filmed the scene before plummeting to his or her death. In total, the video was shared about 3,000 times on Facebook.
So, how do you find out where this video was filmed?
First of all, we have to point out that it is very unlikely that a video like this was filmed and then posted online before the airplane crashed. It’s also highly unlikely that a working phone or a video camera would have been among the few items recovered after the plane plunged into the Mediterranean sea. So even the existence of this video poses immediate questions.
But, importantly, there are several ways to find out where this video is from.
1. Check the comments section
Very often, other social media users are the best safeguard against fake videos. The first clue we saw that this video might not have been filmed on the EgyptAir flight was in the comments section. A YouTube user wrote that this footage was filmed on an Etihad Airways flight to Jakarta, Indonesia.
2. Search for the video on YouTube using keywords
We decided to follow the lead we discovered in the comments section and typed “Jakarta flight” into the search bar in YouTube. The very first video that popped up was identical to the one presented as the doomed EgyptAir flight. Moreover, both videos had the “Net” copyright across the middle of the screen.
This video was actually filmed by a passenger on a flight from Abu Dhabi towards Jakarta. A voice says that, on May 4, extreme turbulence on the flight actually caused several injuries amongst the passengers.
We found the original video easily by doing a search with the keywords “Jakarta” and “flight” on YouTube.
This video was originally shared by “Net Citizen News”, an Indian website that specialises in amateur videos.
3. Use the YouTube search created by Amnesty International
Sometimes it can be hard to find the original video by simply searching with keywords on YouTube, especially if the video doesn’t have a particularly descriptive title or if it wasn’t posted with keywords.
Start by using a plugin like “DownloadHelper” to download the video. To do this, open the video on Facebook and hit play. The plugin will automatically detect the video. The video in question will appear in a bar on the right side of your screen. To download it, all you have to do is click on the little plus sign that appears in the upper right hand corner of the box with the correct video name on it.
When you have downloaded the video, upload it to your personal YouTube account. Make sure that it is categorised as “unverified”.
Then, go on the “YouTube Data Viewer” site created by Amnesty International. Copy the URL of your video into the space provided. It will upload your video and then it will pull up all of the identical videos posted elsewhere on the Internet.
The site will automatically generate several “thumbnails” of your YouTube video, which are basically like tiny screengrabs. These screengrabs or frames are very rarely modified. So if you click on “reverse image search”, the search tool will pull up all of the other videos that include that exact image.
As you can see in the Google search below, this video had already been published in articles about a turbulent flight between Abu Dhabi and Jakarta.
Check out more tips from The Observers on how to verify photos and videos posted online by clicking here.
If you have any questions about verifying an image, reach out to us! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org