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Digital Witness

Digital Witness


Digital Witness

Using Open Source Information for Human Rights Investigation, Documentation, and Accountability

Edited by Sam Dubberley, Alexa Koenig, and Daragh Murray

ISBN: 9780198836063 (Hardcover)
Publicado: 19 February 2020
Páginas: 384

From videos of rights violations, to satellite images of environmental degradation, to eyewitness accounts disseminated on social media, human rights practitioners have access to more data today than ever before. To say that mobile technologies, social media, and increased connectivity are having a significant impact on human rights practice would be an understatement. Modern technology – and the enhanced access it provides to information about abuse – has the potential to revolutionise human rights reporting and documentation, as well as the pursuit of legal accountability.

However, these new methods for information gathering and dissemination have also created significant challenges for investigators and researchers. For example, videos and photographs depicting alleged human rights violations or war crimes are often captured on the mobile phones of victims or political sympathisers. The capture and dissemination of content often happens haphazardly, and for a variety of motivations, including raising awareness of the plight of those who have been most affected, or for advocacy purposes with the goal of mobilising international public opinion. For this content to be of use to investigators it must be discovered, verified, and authenticated. Discovery, verification, and authentication have, therefore, become critical skills for human rights organisations and human rights lawyers.

This book is the first to cover the history, ethics, methods, and best-practice associated with open source research. It is intended to equip the next generation of lawyers, journalists, sociologists, data scientists, other human rights activists, and researchers with the cutting-edge skills needed to work in an increasingly digitized, and information-saturated environment.


Foreword, Aryeh Neier
Section One
Introduction, Sam Dubberley, Alexa Koenig, Daragh Murray
1. The History of the Use of Open Source Investigation for Human Rights Reporting, Christoph Koettl, Daragh Murray, Sam Dubberley
2. The History of Open Source Investigations for Legal Accountability, Alexa Koenig
3. Prosecuting Grave International Crimes Using Open Source Evidence: Lessons from the International Criminal Court, Lindsay Freeman
4. Open Source Investigations and the Technology-Driven Knowledge Controversy in Human Rights Fact-Finding, Ella McPherson, Isabel Guenette Thornton, Matt Mahmoudi
5. Open Source Investigations for Human Rights: Current and Future Challenges, Scott Edwards
Section Two
6. How to Conduct Discovery Using Open Source Methods, Paul Myers
7. How to Effectively Preserve Open Source Information, Yvonne Ng
8. Targeted Mass Archiving of Open Source Information: A Case Study, Jeff Deutsch and Niko Para
9. How to Verify User-Generated Content, Aric Toler
10. The Role and Use of Satellite Imagery in Open Source Investigations, Micah Farfour
Section Three
11. Ethics in Open Source Investigations, Zara Rahman and Gabriela Ivens
12. Open Source Investigations: Vicarious Trauma, PTSD, and Tactics for Resilience, Sam Dubberley, Margaret Satterthwaite, Sarah Knuckey, Adam Brown
13. Open Source Investigations: Understanding Digital Threats, Risks, and Harms, Joseph Guay, Lisa Rudnick
Section Four
14. Open Source Information: Part of the Puzzle, Fred Abrahams, Daragh Murray
15. Open Source Investigations for Legal Accountability: Challenges and Best Practices, Alexa Koenig, Lindsay Freeman


Sam Dubberley, Research Consultant, Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project, University of Essex and Special Advisor Crisis Response, Amnesty International,Alexa Koenig, Executive Director, Human Rights Center, UC Berkeley,Daragh Murray, Senior Lecturer, School of Law & Human Rights Centre, University of Essex

Sam Dubberley is a research consultant with the Human Rights Big Data and Technology project at the University of Essex, and Special Adviser in the Crisis Response team at Amnesty International. Sam worked for more than a decade in broadcast journalism, and was head of News Exchange at the European Broadcasting Union between 2010 and 2013. He is a fellow of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, a founding partner of First Draft News, which gives practical and ethical guidance in how to find, verify and publish content sourced from the social web. He is also a part of the Open Source for Human Rights project team at Swansea University.

Alexa Koenig is the executive director of the Human Rights Center (winner of the 2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions), and a lecturer at UC, Berkeley. She co-founded the Human Rights Investigations Lab which trains students to use open source methods to advance human rights. She is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility, co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Technology and Human Rights, and a member of the Technology Advisory Board of the International Criminal Court’s Office of the Prosecutor. She has a JD from the University of San Francisco and an MA and a PhD from UC Berkeley.

Daragh Murray is Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex School of Law and Human Rights Centre, and the Director of the Digital Verification Unit based at the Human Rights Centre Clinic. His research focuses on issues relating to conflict and counter-terrorism, as regulated by the law of armed conflict and international human rights law. He has a particular interest in the regulation and engagement of non-State armed groups, and in the use of technology, particularly in an intelligence agency and law enforcement context. He is a former Government of Ireland IRCHSS Research Scholar, and has a PhD in Law from the University of Essex, an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the Irish Centre for Human Rights, and an MSc in Computer Security and Forensics from Dublin City University.


Aryeh Neier, Co-Founder Human Rights Watch, former President Open Society Foundation
Sam Dubberley, Research Consultant, Human Rights, Big Data & Technology Project, University of Essex; Special Advisor, Crisis Response, Amnesty International
Alexa Koenig, Executive Director, Human Rights Center; Co-Founder, Human Rights Investigations Lab; Lecturer-in-Residence, University of California, Berkeley
Daragh Murray, Lecturer, University of Essex School of Law & Human Rights Centre; Director, Digital Verification Unit, University of Essex Human Rights Centre
Christoph Koettl, Senior Video Journalist, New York Times
Lindsay Freeman, Researcher, Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley
Ella McPherson, Lecturer in Sociology of New Media and Digital Technology; Co-Director Centre of Governance & Human Rights, University of Cambridge
Isabel Guenette Thornton, Doctoral Candidate, Digital Sociology, University of Cambridge
Matt Mahmoudi, Doctoral Candidate, Development Studies, University of Cambridge
Scott Edwards, Senior Advisor, Crisis Response, Amnesty International
Paul Myers, Internet Research Specialist, BBC
Yvonne Ng, Senior Archivist, WITNESS
Aric Toler, Lead Eurasia, Eastern Europe Team, Bellingcat
Micah Farfour, Special Advisor, Remote Sensing, Amnesty International
Gabi Ivens, Independent Open Source Investigator
Zara Rahman, Research, Engagement and Communities Team Lead, Engine Room
Meg Satterthwaite, Professor of Clinical Law, New York University
Sarah Knuckey, Director, Human Rights Clinic, Columbia Law School
Adam Brown, Department of Psychology, New School for Social Research
Jackie Geiss, Chief Operating Officer, Videre Est Credere
Joseph Guay, Associate, The Policy Lab
Lisa Rudnick, Fellow, The Policy Lab
Fred Abrahams, Associate Director for Program, Human Rights Watch
Niko Para, Technical Project Manager, Syrian Archive
Jeff Deutsch, Lead researcher, Syrian Archive

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