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Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps Named ‘International Collaboration of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards

Our Digital Verification Corps – a global collaboration between Amnesty International and six universities – was named ‘International Collaboration of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards in London on November 28th, along with the University of Essex’s Digital Verification Unit.  The judges said they were “incredibly impressed with the nature of the partnership, how it led to an impressive network of student investigators, and how it has delivered and continues to deliver data-driven evidence that can be used to prosecute war crimes and support society-building and social justice”.

Reacting to the news, Sam Dubberley, Head of Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps, said: “We’re delighted and this award recognizes what we and our university partners around the world already knew – that the Digital Verification Corps has gone from strength to strength since its inception only a few short years ago.

International Collaboration of the Year
International Collaboration of the Year: Image courtesy Daragh Murray

“Whether it’s gathering digital evidence of potential war crimes or verifying content in real-time amid the recent wave of protest crackdowns in countries including Hong Kong, Iraq and Chile, this collaboration has pioneered some of the most cutting-edge human rights research in the world today.

“Open source investigations have really come into their own, bringing invaluable depth and context to journalism, litigation and other fields. What the dozens of students in Amnesty International’s Digital Verifications Corps at Essex and our five other university partners do is bring the same rigour and methodology to investigate some of the most pressing human rights issues of our time, to bring justice to the victims and hold perpetrators to account.”

The Digital Verification Unit at the University of Essex (DVU) was one of the founding partner universities in Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps, which now includes Hong Kong University, the University of Pretoria, Cambridge University, the University of Toronto and University of California-Berkeley.


Former DVC members explain how the DVC works: Video Courtesy University of Essex

The Times Higher Education Award for best international collaboration was awarded to the Digital Verification Corps and Essex DVU, as well as the other DVC partners for their joint open source investigative work on Raqqa, Syria. The findings fed into a wider investigation by Amnesty International and Airwars, published in April 2019, which revealed evidence that the US-led Coalition’s four-month military offensive on Raqqa in June-October 2017 killed at least 1,600 civilians.

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