The next generation: open source investigations in human rights work featured in documentary

On 25 April 2020, NHK World Doc released a video, “Digital Detectives”, which explores the revolution of open source investigations within the field of journalism and human rights investigations. These investigations use a range of digital techniques to analyse social media, satellite images and publicly available information online in order to discover truths about major media stories as well as investigate violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

The video features leaders in the field and covers the “emerging digital battlefield” of major international media outlets and think tanks racing to secure the most talented investigators. The video concludes with a segment on Trust grantee, Human Rights Center at University of California Berkeley. UC Berkeley Human Rights Center’s lab for nurturing students’ skills in open source investigations – the first and largest  based in a university – and the impact of its initiative, is explored.

UC Berkeley Human Rights Center’s Executive Director and co-founder of the lab, Alexa Koenig, speaks about these open source investigation methods and the importance of passing them to younger generations. The Center is leading the way in thinking about the ethical use of open-source methods for investigating war crimes and human rights violations. In particular, it was at the forefront of efforts to develop an international protocol on open source investigations that would set common standards and guidelines for the identification, collection, preservation, verification and analysis of online open source information. [Update: The Berkeley Protocol on Digital Open Source Investigations was launched in December 2020.]

Trust grantee Bellingcat appear in the segment, as some graduates who have taken part in UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center lab go on to join the Bellingcat team. Bellingcat Founder Eliot Higgins speaks about the importance of training people in open source investigations so that they can contribute in ways that are big and small.


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