Category Archives: Verification Corps

In the Firing Line: How Amnesty’s Digital Verification Corps changed official narratives through open source investigation

On April 14th 2017, a shooting occurred at the Manus Island Detention Centre in Papua New Guinea, where over 800 refugees and asylum seeker are detained by the Australian government. There were media reports that shots had been fired into the Centre — endangering the lives of those detained there. Manus Province police commissioner David Yapu didn’t agree. “The soldiers fired several gunshots on the air causing great fear and threats to the local and international community serving at the centre” he said, in the immediate aftermath of a shooting.

Amnesty International decided to conduct research that is presented in a report — In The Firing Line: Shooting at Australia’s Refugee Centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea — published on May 15th. After it was published, Commissioner Yapu changed his position. “Some of the shots were fired through the compound and some of the bullets penetrated through the walls”, he conceded the same day. Continue reading In the Firing Line: How Amnesty’s Digital Verification Corps changed official narratives through open source investigation

In Remembrance of Will Moore, Friend of Amnesty International

Cross-posted with Lemming Cliff

By way of minor prologue:

I knew Will Moore for just shy of 20 years. I knew him as a professor and mentor. I knew him as a Ph.D. dissertation adviser and a collaborator. And I knew him as a close friend. For much of the last 20 years, when writing anything — a blog post, an academic paper, a press release — Will would loom in my mind as an audience, often intrusively. In that place, he prompted thousands of keystrokes (disproportionately backspace), always to the benefit of clarity, precision, and efficiency.

But he will not read this, and I cannot manage — though I’ve tried — to pretend that he will. It is for that reason — more so than any sense of grief or lack of time and space — that it has taken me 2 weeks to formulate the simple and understated words below. He’d hate it.

Will Moore (right), September 2013

I write them on behalf of a grateful Amnesty International and, ultimately, a grateful human rights movement.

This month, the human rights community lost a friend and scholar with the passing of Professor Will Moore.

As a scholar, Will made immense contributions to the study of political violence and to that which was once treated as an epiphenomenon of politics and conflict: forced displacement and human rights. In the study of repression and human rights, Will and his growing cadre of students and colleagues made important methodological progress into the study of compliance and abuse, especially related to torture and ill-treatment. He contributed to the study of human rights actors, be they the state, dissenters, or even human rights organizations, with important implications for the work of securing dignity and protection for persons, everywhere.

His scholarly work was read in Amnesty International, and I suspect elsewhere in the human rights (practice) community. It informed thinking, strategy, and encouraged self-reflection. And in no small part as a result of his efforts, the important work of rigorous, scientific examination of human rights dynamics will continue. A new generation of political scientists, un-tethered from constraints of geo-political primacy in the academy, will produce knowledge that can make a better world — if we so choose it.

As a result of Amnesty International’s outsized role in producing human rights data, Will sought to know and understand the organization. And in the process — beyond the important work of creating generalized knowledge about repression — he became a friend of Amnesty International.

Will launched the Citizen Media Evidence Partnership (CMEP) while at Florida State University, a joint project with Amnesty. The Citizen Media Evidence Partnership ultimately became the Digital Verification Corp, a now-global network of colleges and universities that are uncovering and verifying human rights abuses as they unfold, ensuring that human rights struggles are not lost in a digital sea.

Continue reading In Remembrance of Will Moore, Friend of Amnesty International

In Digital Research, Things aren’t always what they seem

Reflections from Digital Verification Corps (DVC) volunteer Adebayo Okeowo

The cure for fake stories is to simply counter it with the truth. But then what happens when individuals with questionable motives create false news based on inaccurate facts? This will require more than just a critical eye and a sharp mind. It will entail special skills, which is the solution being offered by Amnesty’s Digital Verification Corps (DVC), a team I am privileged to be a part of.

It was midday a couple of months ago in Pretoria as we gathered for the first time as a team. We sat in groups of three and silently observed a YouTube video on our laptops. We had one task: verify if the video showing an airstrike in Syria was authentic. We came to the conclusion that the video was authentic and had not been manipulated. However, there was a complication: the locals in the video had claimed that they recorded and uploaded the video the same day the strike took place. But the time stamp on YouTube showed a different date. Continue reading In Digital Research, Things aren’t always what they seem

Embarking on the path of verification

Here at the Citizen Evidence Lab we’re pleased to announce the launch of Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps.  This initiative is being launched with Human Rights Centers at three universities. The University of California, Berkeley in the USA; the University of Essex in the UK and the University of Pretoria in South Africa.  The goal is for this to become a wider initiative to train future human rights investigators in the techniques and skills required to verify content that depicts potential human rights abuses found on open social media platforms. With more and more people around the world connected by mobile technology, this is a resource that human rights researchers just cannot ignore – and that includes the researchers at Amnesty International. Continue reading Embarking on the path of verification

New Data and the Importance of Collaboration

New data streams have revolutionized every industry.  It’s no different for human rights.  No different, also, is learning to understand how these work to leverage them for the greater good.  That’s what Amnesty’s Alt-Click project is about.  How do we take the great opportunities out there – micro tasking, social media streams, large databases – and use them to help achieve the mission of Amnesty International.

One of the ways we’re doing that at the Citizen Evidence Lab is by setting up our Digital Verification Corps.  It’s a big challenge – we’ll be working with Amnesty volunteers to find content in social media streams and to verify videos and photographs to help Amnesty researchers monitor and report on human rights violations.  Thinking about all of this while listening to other organizations share their own experiences of different data streams was so important  That’s why we’ll also be using this platform – www.citizenevidence.org – to share our experiences as we build the Digital Verification Corps over the next few months.  We’ll write about our successes, our failures, content we have been able to verify, content we’ve debunked in the hope that this can help other organizations with their own challenges around how to use social media data streams.   Continue reading New Data and the Importance of Collaboration

Job: Verification Corps Community Manager

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)