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
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
From online videos of war crimes, to satellite images of rights violations in areas as reclusive as North Korea, to eyewitness accounts disseminated on social media, we have access to more relevant data today than ever before.
These new data streams open up new opportunities for human rights documentation, and have a profound impact on how we conduct research at Amnesty International. For example, we recently used cell-phone video footage and satellite images to uncover a likely mass grave in Burundi. Due to lack of physical access, our work on Syria also relies heavily on content shared through social media and satellite image analysis. Continue reading DatNav: Researching Human Rights in the Digital Age
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
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.