Groundbreaking textbook on open source human rights investigations launches

The Crisis Evidence Lab just celebrated the publication of the first-ever textbook providing background, insights and practical tips for human rights investigators in the open source community.

The Oxford University Press title Digital Witness: Using Open Source Information for Human Rights Investigation, Documentation, and Accountability officially launched at Amnesty International UK’s Human Rights Action Centre in London on 26 February.

Digital Witness edited by Sam Dubberley, Alexa Koenig and Daragh Murray

Co-edited by Sam Dubberley, the acting head of the Evidence Lab, together with Alexa Koenig of UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center and Daragh Murray of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex (both partners in Amnesty’s Digital Verification Corps), the book also features chapters by Amnesty’s geospatial expert Micah Farfour and research innovation lead Scott Edwards.

Four chapter authors and two of the editors joined Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, and Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research, Advocacy and Policy, for the launch event. Split into two distinct panels, the event addressed some practical and conceptual issues relating to the use of open source data. In the first panel, Sam Dubberley discussed current practice and challenges of open source investigations with Jeff Deutch of the Syrian Archive and Yvonne Ng of WITNESS. The second panel, moderated by Alexa Koenig, discussed future challenges with Ella McPherson of the University of Cambridge, and Lindsay Freeman of UC Berkeley Human Rights Center.

Alexa Koenig, Lindsay Freeman and Ella McPherson discuss Digital Witness. Image courtesy Matteo Moschella.

The goal of Digital Witness is to highlight the need for all human rights organizations — whether working towards advocacy or accountability for rights violations — to consider the use of open source information in their work.  The book takes the reader through the history and recent background of open source work, to the techniques and challenges of its practice, finishing with an analysis of how it can be effectively used for advocacy and accountability. As Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, so eloquently states on the book’s back cover: “Digital Witness is a volume that will fast become the standard text for anyone interested in human rights, the collection of evidence in the digital age, and the prosecution of those who perpetrate gross human rights violations.”

Digital Witness was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Human Rights, Big Data and Technology project at the University of Essex, the Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law, the Mesa Refuge in Point Reyes, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

For more information or to order a copy, please visit: