Open source investigations

Researching the ethical considerations that should be considered when conducting open source investigations for advocacy or legal accountability

Advances in digital communications technology – particularly social media and the spread of smartphones – have revolutionized the practice of human rights. Victims of, and witnesses to, human rights abuses can now document their experiences, and share them directly with the world.  This publicly available information is referred to as ‘open source’ information. This information can then contribute to broader human rights documentation and accountability mechanisms. The recent International Criminal Court arrest warrant issued against Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli was based on open source digital information.

Open source investigations and human rights

Open source investigations are becoming central to effective human rights investigations. However, the use of this information raises a number of concerns, particularly with respect to ethics. At HRBDT, we are researching these ethical considerations. We also run a digital verification unit, based at the University of Essex Human Rights Centre Clinic. The unit’s work in collaboration with Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps has been shortlisted for a Times Higher Education International Collaboration award.

Our research

The project, with the support of the Engine Room, is researching the ethical considerations that should be taken into account when conducting open source investigations for advocacy or legal accountability. This will culminate in a white paper to be published in late 2019.  We have also been considering the human rights impact of the current misinformation and disinformation ecosphere. Members of the HRBDT project are also working on a textbook – Digital Witness: Using Open Source Information for Human Rights Investigation, Documentation, and Accountability – to be published by OUP at the end of 2019.

Latest posts

  • Apr222020

    Right On – The Wednesday Web Chat

    The HRBDT project is supporting a new digital initiative that aims to keep the Human Rights dialogue going during the…

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  • Mar022020

    Podcast of the Panel Discussion at the Book Launch for Digital Witness on 26 February 2020

    Listen here to the Panel Discussion at the Book Launch of Digital Witness The panel discussion took place at the…

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  • Feb252020

    Panel Discussion – Getting to the truth – Using Open Source Data to Defend Human Rights

    On 25 February 2020 the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project and the Foreign Policy Centre co-hosted an event…

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Our Partners

Queen Mary University of London
University of Cambridge
Eye Witness Media
Universal Rights Group
World Health Organisation
Geneva Academy