An Al Arabiya English investigation into the details of a fake viral video showing doctored footage that alleges a missile struck the port of Beirut on Tuesday has revealed new details about how the fake footage was put together.
Social media users widely shared a video in negative colors and alleged that it was shot on a thermal camera, allowing it to “spot the missile” that they claim hit the port and killed at least 154 people.
Other media outlets had quoted experts as saying the footage was fake, but by comparing the original, undoctored videos to the new video, Al Arabiya English has helped reveal how the footage was doctored and spread online.
The investigation took place in three stages: Finding the original videos before they were altered to include the missile, inverting the video’s colors to show that it was not shot on a thermal camera, and previewing missile experts’ comments on the matter.
Finding the original videos
Al Arabiya English went through hundreds of videos of the Beirut explosion to find the ones that exactly matched the fake viral video frame-by-frame. The fake video consists of a montage of two videos showing different angles of the explosion, with the same fake missile doctored into both of them.
Below is the fake video which went viral on social media with captions like: “You still believe that was an accident!!??” and “proof that this was a strike.”
In the videos below, three versions of the two videos are combined into a split screen to show the difference between the original videos, the doctored videos, and the inverted doctored videos.
The individual who doctored the video made its colors negative, seemingly to better hide the reality of the video and make it look infrared. Social media users widely captioned the video as “thermal footage showing…etc.”
By inverting the fake video through an editing software, Al Arabiya English was able to produce the original colors of the video. The interactive slider below shows the doctored negative video and the doctored inverted video:
To see how a real thermal video would look like if inverted, Al Arabiya English applied the same effect to a Reuters video that shows a robot that detects people’s fever through taking thermal videos of them in South Korea.
Experts said that the missile plastered into the video is far too large to be real and is not an identifiable missile type, which proves that it is fake.
“The missile looks far too large to be physically plausible and there is no motion blur on the missile as would be expected given the speed at which it would have been traveling,” Hany Farid, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who focuses on digital forensics, told The Associated Press.
“It’s basically a cartoon missile that doesn’t look anything like a real missile striking a target,” Jeffrey Lewis, a missile expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California confirmed to the AP.
“If it were less amateurish, we could identify the actual missile type, estimate the reentry trajectory and speed, as well as look for digital artifacts,” Lewis said. “But this isn’t good enough to bother with. This is more derp fake than deep fake.”