The Citizen Evidence Lab is intended to support human rights researchers and advocates to better take advantage of the new digital data-streams emanating from conflict zones and other human rights hot spots. It is an online space to share best practices, techniques and tools for authenticating user-generated content for human rights defense.
The Citizen Evidence Lab was created as part of Amnesty International’s Sensor Project – a global network that seeks to advance the practice and power of human rights defense. Christoph Koettl is the founder and editor of the Lab.
This site is largely based on our experience working on validating video – or other user generated content – over the last years, most notably in the context of the armed conflict in Syria, and protests around the world.
We are very grateful to others who work in this field, from who we continue to learn on a daily basis. Special thanks goes to the members of Storyful’s Open News Room, the contributors of the Verification Handbook, and our colleagues at WITNESS.
We’d also like to give a special shout-out the the volunteers of the Citizen Media Evidence Project, who are dedicating their time to sort us through the host of citizen videos for use in human rights research.
The views expressed on this website are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Amnesty International.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What does “citizen evidence” mean?
“Citizen evidence” defines any material – such as images or videos – showing a potential human rights violation, collected by someone other than an official human rights investigator. The collector in many cases is a citizen journalist or human rights defender, and more often than not, the collected material is shared through digital, social networks, such as YouTube or Twitter. However, it can also be a bystander or armed actor who is recording on a cellphone, for instance.
At the core of this understanding of “citizen evidence” is the fact that the documentation is collected by non-traditional monitors that are direct witnesses to specific events. No matter if publicly shared through social media or not, this sort of documentation often exposes in great detail crimes that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.
One should understand “evidence” in a very broad sense. It does not necessarily mean that all material meets the admissibility rules of a court of law. However, through thorough authentication and research, at the minimum this is material that can support human rights advocacy, and potentially even bring perpetrators to justice.
How is this site different from other projects?
This project is unique in that the specific target audience is human rights researchers. Most efforts in the verification space are spearheaded by journalists. While we share the same tools, and in fact can learn immensely from the work done by journalists, we believe that the distinctive character of human rights investigations justifies a dedicated resource and space.
How is the this site different from the “Verification Handbook”?
We believe that the Verification Handbook: A definitive guide to verifying digital content for emergency coverage to date is the most useful resource for anyone working on verifying user-generated content. In fact, the editor of this site was one of the contributors to the book. We are seeing the Citizen Evidence Lab as complementary to this resource, targeted specifically at human-right workers.
How can I contact you?
Feature photo on top courtesy of Tea Durmic