Open source research and verification is becoming an increasingly important aspect of research, including for human rights groups. At Amnesty International, we have always relied on the amazing work of volunteers, something that will only expand in the digital age. Over the last couple of years, we had a small group of volunteers to help us with verification of social media content. Now we want to take this project to the next level and are hiring a part-time consultant to build up and manage this community. If you have experience with building active and resilient (online) networks and communities, and have an interest in digital verification work, this job is for you.
The Citizen Evidence Lab Verification Corps is a volunteer network of students, young professionals and other supporters that assist in the discovery and verification of open source content. The aim of the project is to support Amnesty International’s research function by creating a network of volunteers who can triage and validate images and videos of potential human rights abuses.
Download full consultancy description (pdf)
In addition to working almost daily with citizen media and other open source content, I also give regular trainings for human rights researchers and journalists. Unfortunately, not too many training resources exist in this regard, especially materials that are tailored to human rights practitioners. An additional challenge is that many resources—including on this site—focus on specific tools, which tend to become outdated very quickly considering how fast this field is developing.
I thought it would thus be important to create a more in-depth resource for practitioners and students who want to become proficient in human rights research in the digital age. Most importantly, the time is ripe for a tool-independent analytical framework to analyze and verify citizen media, which I hope will help integrating citizen media into traditional human rights documentation. Continue reading Analytical Framework For Citizen Media Research and Verification
A sincere thank you to the close to 50,000 readers who have visited our site since we launched in mid-2014. I hope you enjoyed our content, and I am trying to make an increased effort in 2016 to post more content after a pretty slow 2015. In my first posting of 2016, I wanted to give a short sneak preview of what I am planning this year:
- Guest contributions: I strive to invite experts in this field to make regular contributions, and we are off to a good start with our recent guest post by Sam Dubberley on the important topic of secondary trauma.
- In-depth content and papers: This month, I am going to publish—in partnership with Cambridge University’s Centre for Governance & Human Rights—a working paper on open source research and verification for human rights practitioners. Also planned are short guides on advanced social media research, and on using geospatial data for verification work.
- Case studies: At Amnesty International, we work with citizen media on a weekly basis, and I’ll make an effort to share not only our output, but also how we review content and what we learn. A recent example of our verification work is our briefing on Russian airstrikes in Syria, for which we extensively reviewed citizen media and other open source content
- Image verification: I worked increasingly with photographs over the last 12 months. There is a lot to share, so I am planning to provide more content on image verification, which so far has been missing from the site. This will include tips on EXIF analysis and review of other data related to photographs.
- Volunteers: I also plan to increasingly work with volunteers, building on our Citizen Media Evidence Partnership pilot project.
Feel free to provide feedback in the comments sections, and let us know if you see any important gaps in the verification field that we might be able to address.
Big shout out to our colleagues from WITNESS, who just released an important new resource on using eyewitness videos in human rights reporting and advocacy in an ethical way. I consider this a highly relevant resource for everyone working with citizen media. This posting by Madeleine Bair was originally published by the WITNESS Media Lab.
In June of 2009, the image of Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death on the street in Tehran was caught on video and shared on YouTube, news media, and Twitter, became a striking symbol of Iran’s Green Revolution, and an ethical predicament for millions of viewers who never knew her: What did it mean to witness the last moments of this young woman’s life?
Six years later, we are still wrestling with that question and many others surrounding the ethics of sharing online videos of injustice and abuse. The amount of bystander footage shared online has skyrocketed, becoming a critical aspect of news and human rights reporting. And yet it seems like every day we are faced with a new dilemma concerning the ethics of watching and sharing footage that is often intimate, horrific, or decontextualized.
Does sharing videos by extremist organizations aid their goals of provoking fear and glamorizing violence, or is it a necessary part of news gathering? Should eyewitnesses be asked permission before their videos are broadcast by news media, or would that hinder the reporting process? How can investigators and advocates report on abuse caught on camera without violating the privacy or impacting the security of those seen on video?
For newsrooms, crisis responders, and human rights investigators, traditional protocols and guidelines have not kept up with these new challenges. While codes of ethics instruct us to do no harm, there is little by way of guidance to apply that principle when working with videos that we ourselves did not produce—footage filmed by bystanders, activists, victims, survivors, and sometimes perpetrators of abuse. Read full article
By Sam Dubberley – First posted by Eyewitness Media Hub
Eyewitness Media Hub is embarking on a cross-industry study into the impact of traumatic footage — and we need your help
Eyewitness Media Hub, with the support of the Open Society Foundation, is conducting a cross-industry study into the impact of vicarious trauma on journalists, human rights investigators and humanitarian aid workers who frequently search for eyewitness media in their work. Sam Dubberley — who makes up the research team along with Pete Brown — explains why this is so important and what the study aims to achieve.
It was in September 2004 that I had my first experience of what turned out to be vicarious trauma. It was the height of the insurgency in Iraq following the invasion that had toppled Saddam Hussein over a year earlier. I had colleagues in Baghdad. I, on the other hand, was sitting in a newsroom in Geneva. On September 20th, Eugene Armstrong, an American engineer, was beheaded. The main television news agencies discovered and distributed the video showing his murder. For reasons that I do not understand to this day, I was the one who volunteered in my Geneva office to watch it. Bravado? An attempt to prove myself? Career advancement? Aged 27, it was probably a bit of all of those. One thing I know for sure, though, is that whatever compelled me to watch the video of the death of Eugene Armstrong on a rainy, late summer afternoon in Geneva, I wish to this day that I hadn’t. Read full article
Previously published in New African Magazine and International Business Times – Also available in Spanish and French.
In March 2014 a grainy cell phone video came across my desk that seemed to show a Nigerian soldier murdering an unarmed man in broad daylight. It took me a day and a half to pinpoint the location of this apparent war crime to a specific street corner in Maiduguri, the state capital of Borno and a city of more than 500,000 people.
Confirming the location of an incident is a crucial step in the authentication process, so finding this fact was highly relevant to reference the footage in a report we published on 31 March 2014, exposing war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Nigerian military and Boko Haram. Continue reading How citizen video and free tech tools helped us expose war crimes in Nigeria
Good news for investigators: The European Journalism Center today published a handbook on how to use and verify user-generated content in in-depth investigations. It is a companion handbook to the original Verification Handbook, which focused on breaking news, and includes my chapter on using user-generated content in human rights investigations.
The need for such a resource is enormous. Both journalists and human rights investigators are increasingly confronted with a torrent of citizen media shared through digital social networks in real-time. The risks of overlooking relevant content or getting it outright wrong are very real. However, the benefits of effectively and ethically integrating open source materials into in-depth investigations are huge. Continue reading New Verification Handbook For Investigative Work