YouTube Comment Search: Searching and extracting video comments
We will start this latest OSINT Tool Review perhaps in a usual fashion by giving YouTube Comment Search a huge ‘thumbs-up’ from the OS2INT team. This very slick Google Chrome Extension is highly effective, simple to use with its clean interface, and very slick in functionality!
This tool is perhaps one of a very small handful of tools tailored towards extracting valuable data from YouTube. The question that many of our readers will no doubt ask is “why should I be concerned about YouTube videos?” The answer lies in numerous news articles and research which rightly points out a continued trend in the use of YouTube by sex offenders to groom children. Buzzfeed news reporter Charlie Warzel wrote in 2017 that a large number of YouTube user accounts are publishing disturbing and exploitative videos aimed at and starring children in compromising, predatory, or creepy situations — and racking up millions of views. Whilst YouTube has taken steps to address the issue of child exploitation on its platform, instances of children being encouraged by sex offenders to undertake so-called ‘challenges’. So, Digital Investigations focusing on YouTube remains relevant, especially from a child protection perspective. Additionally, our searches found instances of far-right and Islamic extremism being uploaded to YouTube – with accompanying comments providing us with a clear view of individuals of intelligence interest.
So where does YouTube Comment Search come into our discussion?… Comments posted in response to YouTube videos are an incredibly important source of information that is often overlooked. Comments can enable Digital Investigators to identify people who may be regarded as suspects in relation to a case involving online child grooming. It could also, in some instances, enable Digital Investigators to map a potential network of individuals undertaking such crimes against children. For its part, YouTube Comment Search allow Digital Investigators to search through all comments posted in relation to a YouTube video – without such a capability, investigators would need to use an auto-scroll plugin to reveal all posted comments, then use their browser’s native search function. This is both a time-consuming and RAM-intensive task for any browser to undertake. Lastly, YouTube Comment Search allows Digital Investigators to export all comments posted in relation to a YouTube video to a text file – the process itself taking milliseconds to achieve.
So, you may now be asking “what can we use YouTube Comment Search’s output for?”. One answer to this is that we can transform the information contained within the text file into a comma-separated value (CSV) file and use it within a data visualisation tool such as Gephi – by repeating the process across several target videos, a very neat network relationship chart can be built to show individuals of intelligence interest.
In conclusion, we like everything there is about this tool, it does exactly what it says through a simple user interface that has so far not failed (even when processing tens of thousands of comments!). Considering that we have delved deep into this tool and explained why it should be included in every Digital Investigator’s toolbox, we should (for the sake of being objective) discuss some improvements which could be made to the tool. Firstly, we would recommend that the tool has the capability to output comment lists in multiple formats such as .txt, .json and also .csv – this would make it easier for Digital Investigators to use the data within more specialised solutions such as Gephi. Lastly, the tool would benefit greatly by allowing investigators to run multiple keywords and / or boolean search queries.
All-in-all, we shouldn’t say more about this tool, it is fantastic, simple as that!