The role social media has played throughout the Arab Spring protests is undeniably a prominent one. Tools like Facebook and Twitter assisted groups in organizing protests in Egypt and Tunisia, and now it is likely that YouTube will join the ranks among these sites. Last week, the video sharing site announced the addition of a face-blurring tool that can be used to obscure faces in a user’s uploaded video that is now available for use.
“YouTube is proud to be a destination where people worldwide come to share their stories, including activists. Along with efforts like the Human Rights Channel and Citizentube that curate these voices, we hope that the new technologies we’re rolling out will facilitate the sharing of even more stories on our platform,” YouTube policy associate Amanda Conway wrote in a blog.
This is a good move on YouTube’s part. It provides citizens with the ability to reach out through social media and have their voices heard. Current revolutionary efforts in Syria seem to have been forgotten by the rest of the world, but fighting has escalated into a civil war there. Access to technology such as this could change that. Consider the impact that the viral Kony 2012 video made. Now, in places where these dissidents are condemned by those in power, that sort of outreach would be impossible without this blurring technology. That sort of attention is precisely what could place pressure on world leaders and organizations to take action in Syria.
For those who disagree about the necessity of such an application, testimony from those in Syria who will be affected by it may help alter opinions.
“Many of my friends were arrested for protesting. However, they weren’t arrested from the protest sites but rather from the checkpoints spread across the city. Government forces have special teams dedicated to monitoring protests that we film and upload to the internet,” an anonymous writer explained on his Al Jazeera blog “The camera in Homs: a double-edged sword.”
YouTube has touted the tool’s usefulness to activists, but on a larger scale, it can also be avantageous for the rest of us.
“Whether you want to share sensitive protest footage without exposing the faces of the activists involved, or share the winning point in your 8-year-old’s basketball game without broadcasting the children’s faces to the world, our face blurring technology is a first step towards providing visual anonymity for video on YouTube,” Conway wrote.