Video website YouTube unveiled on Wednesday a way for users to automatically blur human faces in videos they upload, a feature that would help protect the identities of political dissidents, YouTube parent Google Inc said.
Once known more as a repository for fuzzy, homemade cat videos, YouTube has become a growing destination for slick, highly produced entertainment and serious news content.
Earlier this week, a study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism said amateur "citizen journalism" footage from events such as the 2011 tsunami in Japan were some of the most-watched clips on YouTube.
In recent months YouTube has hosted dozens of videos from the rebellion in Syria, often uploaded by rebels seeking to publicize their struggle. But the videos have also revealed the identity of rebel fighters.
"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 toward providing visual anonymity for video on YouTube," YouTube said in a blog post Wednesday.
The feature also allows for the original copy of the uploaded video to be deleted. Videos may also be kept private.
"YouTube is proud to be a destination where people worldwide come to share their stories, including activists," YouTube said.