The future of human rights investigations: Using open source intelligence to transform the documentation and discovery of human rights violations

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: School of Law

Abstract

Technology is rapidly transforming how investigations of human rights abuses are carried out. Traditionally, investigations relied upon witness testimony and on-site evidence to prove the existence of human rights violations. More recently, however, human rights investigations have been turning to Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), such as social media content and satellite imagery, to overcome the physical, security, and societal barriers to gathering reliable evidence. In August 2017, the International Criminal Court issued its first arrest warrant based on social media evidence.

OSINT has the potential to democratise the flow of information on international human rights violations in an unprecedented way. By allowing investigations to be carried out remotely, and by enabling information to be received directly from witnesses and victims rather than through intermediaries, OSINT can break down some of the barriers that have silenced some voices in traditional investigations and prioritised others. However, new issues arise with these types of investigations. The huge volume of evidence retrievable from social media can make it difficult for investigators to extract truly useful information. There are further issues of informational bias that can be attributed to algorithmic bias or to misinformation posted online, intended to obfuscate or exaggerate human rights abuses.

By combining a unique multidisciplinary methodology, drawing on socio-legal, computer science, and geospatial analysis methods, this project asks:
"To what extent can OSINT be leveraged to contribute more systematically to human rights investigation and documentation? Can natural language processing and geospatial methods for analysing social media content assist in the discovery and analysis processes, and help overcome potential issues of informational bias and misinformation that may arise?"

It will:
1. Create the first ever overview of the use of OSINT by UN human rights fact-finding missions. Through interviews with members of UN Commissions of Inquiry and human rights investigations (many of whom we have worked with on other projects) and a project workshop, we will identify the barriers and reservations to their use of OSINT. Combining this data with a systematic review of reports produced by these investigations, we will determine the extent to which information gathered through OSINT methods could address some of the informational gaps inherent to traditional investigative methods.
2. Develop, in collaboration with human rights organisations, the Knowledge Hub Framework (KHF), a set of core microservices that will provide tools to gather data and carry out specific analytical tasks, such as comparing documents for similarity, identifying place names within free text and mapping them, and assigning weightings and confidence ratings to data sources based on automated crosschecks, validations, and historical accuracies.
3. Through the KHF, use natural language processing, text mining, and spatial analysis techniques, combined with legal analysis, in a case study to demonstrate how OSINT-based investigations could be made more systematic. Our case study will focus on The Philippines, where mass human rights violations have allegedly occurred, but which is not currently subject to a UN human rights inquiry, and which has witnessed a proliferation of social media accounts spreading counter-narratives about alleged human rights abuses. In a dedicated workshop, we will demonstrate the prototype KHF to stakeholders. We will later offer training sessions for human rights organisations. The Institute for International Criminal Investigations has agreed to host one such training session in The Hague.

As well as the KHF, which will be updated as new functionalities are created, the project will result in three academic journal articles and a Guide to OSINT for Human Rights Organisations. It has the potential to transform human rights fact-finding.

Planned Impact

A. United Nations Commissions of Inquiry, Human Rights Fact-Finding Missions, and Human Rights Non-Governmental Organisations
These organisations are increasingly denied access to affected regions (Kirby, 2014) and as such, are more likely to depend on Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) in the future. They will benefit from our research on this project in three important respects:
1. By mapping the space in which OSINT is used by UN human rights investigative missions, our research will make these organisations aware of the potentials of OSINT;
2. By highlighting the potential issues of informational bias in the use of OSINT, and determining whether systematic methods, as pioneered in our case study, could partly overcome those issues, our research will increase awareness of these issues;
3. Our Knowledge Hub Framework tool will be a useful for these organisations, by automating some of the discovery and verification processes that are currently carried out manually. The Knowledge Hub Framework will be developed in collaboration with organisations that we work with (namely, the Institute for International Criminal Investigations, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Amnesty International). It will be made available for use to them and to other human rights organisations, to whom we will give an access key.

We will ensure that these organisations have the opportunity to benefit from our research through:
1. Publishing three open access journal articles on the use of OSINT by human rights fact-finding missions, which will be widely distributed;
2. Presenting our findings and offering training and support on the Knowledge Hub Framework to OHCHR staff in Geneva and members of the Syria Monitoring Team in Beirut;
3. Interviewing members of missions, and inviting them and other OHCHR representatives to participate in project workshops;
4. Widely sharing the "Guide to OSINT for Human Rights Organisations" that we will prepare, and engaging with news media on our findings.

B. International Criminal Tribunals
These courts are beginning to use OSINT in their prosecution of international crimes (ICC, 2017). There is an acute need to identify and start to overcome issues of informational bias, given that the investigations are increasingly likely to depend on OSINT. In addition, our Knowledge Hub Framework will be a useful tool for investigators. We will conduct training on the tool with the Institute of International Criminal Investigations (IICI) in The Hague, which has agreed to host this training. As with (A) above, we will ensure that these tribunals are provided with a copy of our open-access journal articles and Guide to OSINT, and that staff are invited to participate in workshops. CI Koenig is Chair of the International Criminal Court's Office of the Prosecutor's Technology Advisory Board, providing an invaluable link to the Court, and she will transmit our findings to the Court.

C. Victims of Human Rights Violations
Ultimately, we hope that our findings will lead to enhanced accountability for human rights violations through stronger investigations. We are aware that this may seem like an ambitious goal, but it has been seen in recent situations like Myanmar that, through OSINT, human rights violations that would otherwise have been hidden can be revealed. Our findings will highlight how more systematic methods of gathering and verifying OSINT can be utilized, including through the use of our Knowledge Hub Framework tool, to which human rights organisations will be given access. Our case study on The Philippines will not only provide a test case for the development of the Framework tool and a means to demonstrate its functions, but will also potentially result in information on whether human rights abuses have been committed in The Philippines. We will share our with the International Criminal Court through a briefing paper, if it seems that international crimes may have occurred.
 
Description Our research has revealed: a) the potential for open source research to allow human rights investigators to gain access to otherwise unaccessible communities, and to investigate human rights abuses that would otherwise be hidden; b) the fact that open source research is more commonly used as 'lead' or corroborating evidence, and that investigators still treat this type of material with caution; c) the potential for open source evidence to drive the narrative and the scope of the investigation (meaning that certain violations that are well-publicised on social media may be given disproportionate attention), and d) The danger that open source evidence may lead to a focus on particular types of violations where material is most accessible, such as air strikes, whilst overlooking some other important violations that are less-publicised through these means, such as starvation or sexual violence.

A key finding relates to the representativeness of open source evidence. Our research has examined whether the use of open source evidence in human rights fact-finding has the impact of silencing some voices, and, if so, whether that silencing can be overcome. This is a theme that was explored further in a dedicated project expert workshop, held in Swansea on 10 and 11 April 2019, with participants from a broad range of human rights investigative organisations and academic institutions. A co-authored blog post by the PI and two of the Co-Is was published in December 2019, which developed these themes, garnered almost 14,000 impressions on Twitter. It was shared by a broad range of lawyers, investigators and scholars, with comments such as: "Excellent, nuanced piece on potential biases/blind spots in the context of open source investigations" and "Thought provoking piece about the unintended effects of the new flood of evidence from open source investigations: risk of bias and increased expectations of what an 'investigation' should look like."

A second key finding relates to the detection of hate speech online, and the utility of machine learning based models to detect hate speech. We have found that the nature of messages posted on social media/user-generated content platforms, i.e., lack of context due to shorter texts, makes it more challenging to correctly distinguish between the nuances of hate-containing and offensive speech. In this project, we have developed social media post classifiers: machine learning-based models for classifying a social media post/message as containing hate or not (obtaining precision and recall of 96% and 87%, respectively, on a data set of ~25K tweets); and web services that allow end-user applications to programmatically access our models.

A third aspect of the work has related to the challenges of developing technology for human rights investigations and its implementation in practice. These challenges include security; privacy; usability; interoperability, and explainability. An expert workshop on 'Developing Technology for Human Rights Investigations' was provisionally scheduled for April 2020 but had to be postponed owing to the Covid-19 outbreak. Our Knowledge Hub Framework tool has been tested by Amnesty International's Evidence Lab, and Amnesty's team has provided feedback to the KHF researchers on the effectiveness of its use in Amnesty's mission to both monitor human rights abuses during the protests, and test and use new methodologies in its work. Using a combination of rules and machine learning, we have been able to address the challenging task of recognising Arabic names of places, outperforming the state-of-the-art tools for the same task by at least 17 percentage points (in terms of F-score, the harmonic mean of precision and recall).
Exploitation Route Our socio-legal finding on both the use of open source evidence and the risk of bias in that evidence will inform the scholarly literature and practice in the field of human rights investigations. The technical tools developed in this project provide insight into the potentials of technology to support investigations, which will be of use to tech developers, human rights organisations, and other academic researchers.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description Impact arising from this project comes under three headings: 1. Strengthening human rights investigations and accountability 2. Raising awareness amongst human rights organisations about the potentials and use of Open Source Intelligence in practice, and of issues of informational bias 3. Raising public awareness of the use of OSINT, bias issues that can arise, and our Knowledge Hub Framework tool 1. Strengthening human rights investigations and accountability This is clearly a longer-term goal, but the interviews that we have carried out (in Geneva and Beirut, as well as via video-conferencing link) have generated a conversation about the use of open source research in human rights investigations. In addition, a project workshop held in Swansea in April 2019 on overcoming bias in open source human rights research, was attended by, amongst others, representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN fact-finding missions; Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International; EyeWitness; Syrian Archive, and the Institute of International Criminal Investigations. This workshop gave practitioners and academics the opportunity to reflect on the challenges and opportunities of conducting open source research for human rights investigations. Co-Is Murray and Koenig and project consultant Dubberley co-edited 'Digital Witness: Using Open Source Information for Human Rights Investigation, Documentation, and Accountability', which was published by Oxford University Press in 2019. It is the first book of its kind to teach the methods and best-practice of open source research, and features contributions from some of the world's most renowned open sources investigators. It offers guidance on a comprehensive range of topics, including the discovery and preservation of data, and ethical considerations, to provide readers with the cutting-edge skills needed to work in an increasingly digitized and information-saturated environment. A launch event for the book in February 2020 was attended by over 250 people from across academia and the human rights NGO world. A prototype of the Knowledge Hub Framework was demonstrated at the April 2019 workshop in Swansea, where feedback was obtained from leading human rights professionals. In addition, we demonstrated the Knowledge Hub Framework tool as a 'TechDemo' at RightsCon 2019 in Tunis in June 2019. RightsCon is the largest and most important technology and human rights conference globally, which 'brings together business leaders, policy makers, general counsels, government representatives, technologists, and human rights defenders to tackle pressing issues at the intersection of human rights and digital technology.' 2. Raising awareness amongst human rights organisations about the potentials and use of Open Source Intelligence in practice, and of issues of informational bias The PI co-convened (with Dr Barrie Sander of Fundação Getúlio Vargas, Brazil) a Roundtable at RightsCon 2019 on 'Accountability in the Digital Age'. Speakers included: Christopher Sidoti, a member of the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar; David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Professor Sarah Joseph, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University; Shannon Raj Singh, Associate Legal Officer, Special Tribunal for Lebanon; Rebecca Hamilton, American University Washington College of Law, and Dunstan Allison-Hope, Business for Social Responsibility. A related symposium on the Opinio Juris blog, the leading site for academic commentary on contemporary issues in international law, was published in December 2019. A project workshop took place in Swansea in April 2019, which brought together the world's leading human rights organisations working with open source evidence. This workshop provided participants with an opportunity to reflect on such issues as: - How potential bias is identified in traditional investigations, and what steps are taken to mitigate it; - Whether evidence gathered through open source research could complement and address some of the informational gaps inherent to traditional investigative methods; - Whether open source research gives rise to informational biases of its own, and what methods could be used to identify and measure issues of informational bias in open source research; - Whether automated tools for conducting open source research can help to overcome issues of informational bias that may arise. The workshop - which was held under Chatham House rules to allow for free discussion - provided an opportunity for participants to share good practices, challenges and lessons learned regarding the use of open source evidence for human rights fact-finding, and to identify common trends and possible future directions for the conduct of open source research for human rights investigations, including means to make those investigations more systematic. 3. Raising public awareness of the use of OSINT, bias issues that can arise, and our Knowledge Hub Framework tool The research team has already been active in engaging with a range of national and international media outlets, through interviews on our research output and current events that relate to this project. For example, Co-I Koenig featured extensively on a video report produced by The Economist entitled, 'The Battle for Truth: Fake News vs. Fact', where she discussed the challenges of open source human rights investigations. PI McDermott was interviewed by The Washington Post in December 2018, and was quoted extensively in a piece entitled, 'U.N. rights investigators comb new conflict zone: Internet hate speech'. In February 2019, she was interviewed by the Today programme, BBC Radio 4's flagship current affairs programme, where she discussed the proliferation of citizen evidence for crimes committed by Islamic State, in the context of a discussion on the Shamima Begum case. She was also interviewed by Wired, the tech news site, on the use of open source evidence in the context of the Iranian plane crash in January 2020. A project workshop on 'Developing Technology for Human Rights Investigations' - provisionally scheduled for April 2020 but now postponed owing to travel restrictions arising from the Covid-19 outbreak - will human rights practitioners and those working on technical innovations together, to: - Showcase cutting-edge technological developments in the human rights investigative field; - Inform and feed into the development of new technological tools, and - Discuss key themes and challenges around the development of technology for human rights, and its implementation in practice. A series of 'tech demos' (including of the KHF tool) will be interspersed with workshop discussions on core themes, such as: security; privacy; usability; interoperability, and explainability. These discussions will both inform the future development of human rights technology, and will identify the barriers to its adaptation, which we hope will in turn lead to an enhanced use of such technology by human rights investigators worldwide.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Developing a Protocol on Open Source Investigations
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Led by Co-I Koenig, the Human Rights Center at the University of California Berkeley has developed, in collaboration with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, an International Protocol on Digital Open Source Investigations, which will set common standards and guidelines for the identification, collection, preservation, verification and analysis of online open source information with an aim towards improving its effective use in international criminal and human rights investigations. Establishing legal and ethical norms for online open source investigations will professionalize the field and, in doing so, increase the likelihood that such information will be useful for justice and accountability purposes. The Protocol will serve as a resource for practitioners, as well as a valuable training and teaching tool for those using OSINT and online investigations to assess security risks, protect witnesses, track fugitives, monitor crime data, develop investigative leads, and collect evidence.
 
Description Development of teaching materials
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The PI (McDermott) teamed up with Linklaters (a leading law firm) to develop a module on 'the Law and AI', which will be provided to new trainee solicitors in the firm from April 2020, before becoming a staple component of the firm's training contract for solicitors. Patrick McCann, global head of learning and development at Linklaters, who is leading the initiative, said: "We want our lawyers of the future to be equipped with a deep understanding of how technology can be deployed in a variety of legal contexts in order to deliver outstanding client service."
URL https://www.thelawyer.com/linklaters-brings-in-academics-to-school-trainees-in-legal-tech/
 
Description CHERISH DE Escalator fund: Building a Digital Evidence Database
Amount £14,980 (GBP)
Organisation Swansea University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2018 
End 12/2018
 
Description Designing a Secure Helpline for Reporting Unlawful Killings in the Philippines (supported by Swansea University's GCRF and Cherish-DE funds)
Amount £25,324 (GBP)
Organisation Swansea University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2020 
End 09/2020
 
Description Nesta Collective Intelligence Grants: Documenting mass human rights violations through collective intelligence
Amount £20,000 (GBP)
Organisation Nesta 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2019 
End 03/2020
 
Description Collaboration with Amnesty International 
Organisation Amnesty International
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution A team at the University of Manchester, under the supervision of Co-I Batista-Navarro, conducted Natural Language Processing research, in partnership with Amnesty International's Digital Verification Corps. This research serves as an illustration of how NLP can be used to filter evidence (in this instance, YouTube videos) of war crimes. Amnesty International's Evidence Lab, based in the Crisis Response Programme, has tested the Knowledge Hub Framework as part of its mission to test and experiment with new methodologies for human rights research and using new technologies in doing so. The KHF has been tested as part of the investigations that Amnesty has done into the upswing in protests around the globe, and Amnesty's team has provided feedback to the KHF researchers on the effectiveness of its use in Amnesty's mission to both monitor human rights abuses during the protests, and test and use new methodologies in its work.
Collaborator Contribution Amnesty provided relevant data, and tested the tools and methodologies that we have developed as part of this project. Amnesty's International Evidence Lab has provided feedback on how these tools and methods could be improved in helping it and other human rights organisations in its work on monitoring and documenting human rights abuses. In 2020, Batista-Navarro (Co-I), McDermott (PI) and Ikoro (post-doctoral research assistant) submitted an application to the University of Manchester's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, for a collaborative project with Amnesty International. The proposed project (if funded) will build upon this project's research findings on hate speech detection. Amnesty has offered to host three workshops and test the tool to be developed.
Impact The primary outcome has been the strengthening and development of the methodologies (including NLP methods) and tools developed as part of this project, particularly the Knowledge Hub Framework tool. The research is multi-disciplinary: bringing together law, human rights, and computer science.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Collaboration with GLAN (Global Legal Action Network) 
Organisation GLAN Law
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution GLAN is a legal NGO that plays a leading role in taking innovative legal actions to ensure accountability for human rights violations worldwide. In July 2018, we co-convened an expert workshop on Best Practices in Building Evidence Databases for Human Rights Investigations, which informs the present research project. PI McDermott and Co-I Murray took part in the expert workshop, together with the project consultant, Dubberley. The PI collaborated with GLAN on an application to Nesta's Collective Intelligence Grants scheme for a project, 'Documenting mass human rights violations through collective intelligence', which builds on some of the key findings from this research project to examine the potentials of a collective intelligence approach to human rights investigations.
Collaborator Contribution GLAN's pioneering work involves collecting both open source and closed evidence of human rights violations in Yemen in order to take a legal challenge through the UK's court system. To support this work, a secure means to manage this collection of evidence had to be created. The PI advised on admissibility requirements to inform the creation of a secure evidence database, which was enabled by further funding from Nesta. In August 2019, GLAN, working together with a Yemeni partner, Mwatana for Human Rights, submitted a detailed dossier of evidence to the UK Government, showing the extent of unlawful attacks carried out by the Saudi/UAE-led coalition in Yemen, and arguing that the evidence shows that the UK government must cease the sale of weapons to Yemen. Having appropriate evidence management systems in place enabled GLAN and Mwatana to work together to analyse the facts and the law governing the Coalition's actions in Yemen. Mwatana conducts field investigations at the sites of alleged airstrikes, interviewing witnesses and collecting photographic evidence. GLAN used open source evidence to add to the body of evidence gathered by Mwatana. Preparations are underway for the first legal action to be taken (by GLAN) using the database, which will then be shared with other trusted organisations.
Impact This collaboration is interdisciplinary in nature, as it sits on the boundary between law and computer science. The collaboration will allow us to test the possibility of introducing open source evidence of mass human rights violations in legal proceedings before the courts in England and Wales, and will provide some valuable insights for our project outputs. The integration achieved in the Nesta project has been recognised as a sector-leading approach, which has garnered a lot of attention from fellow human rights organisations (Centre for Human Rights Science, 2019; Finch, 2019).
Start Year 2018
 
Description Collaboration with UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights 
Organisation United Nations (UN)
Department Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Country Switzerland 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The research team have worked closely with staff from the OHCHR over the course of this project. In particular, Co-I Koenig and a team based at UC Berkeley has been leading on the creation on an international protocol on digital open source investigations, to which other members of the research team have had input. A draft protocol was finalized and submitted to the UN's publication committee towards the end of February 2020. The protocol will now be undergoing a formal, month-long review, with an anticipated approval in April. At that point, the protocol's text will be edited and proofread, and ultimately released in five languages: English, Arabic, French, Spanish and Turkish. The protocol is expected to set common, global standards for digital open source investigations to maximize their value for court processes. It is also expected to provide basic guidance for courts, investigators, reporters, and advocates around the world who are interested in using digital open source information to strengthen fact-finding related to human rights abuses and war crimes. We are anticipating an international release by late summer / early autumn 2020. It will be available both for purchase and at no cost.
Collaborator Contribution - Collaboration on the International Protocol on Digital Open Source Investigations - Participation at workshops and project events - Staff members were interviewed by the PI and Co-Is (Murray and Koenig) for an empirical inquiry into how online open source information can strengthen the investigation and prosecution of mass human rights violations.
Impact International protocol on digital open source investigations; 3 x academic journal articles (in preparation).
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with organisations in The Philippines 
Organisation Ateneo de Manila University
Country Philippines 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Members of the team are involved in a follow-on project, supported by Swansea University's Global Challenges Research Fund and Cherish-DE Escalator funding, which examines best practices in the collection of victim accounts, and whether it is feasible to provide psychosocial support through a helpline-like online system by semi-automatically detecting emotions such as helplessness, distress and frustration in personal accounts through natural language processing.
Collaborator Contribution Ateneo de Manila University will develop a platform underpinned by blockchain technology, which will integrate the NLP tools to be developed by the Co-I (Batista-Navarro) and post-doctoral researcher from this project. WAPR-Philippines are the project partner who will test and utilise the platform to be developed.
Impact This collaboration will enable us to deploy research excellence (in human rights/international law and natural language processing) to generate solutions to two pressing issues: A. How can advanced technological methods be deployed to enable organisations to support victims of mass human rights violations?; and B. How can evidence be preserved in such a way as to ensure their potential use for future prosecutions of such widespread violations and/or human rights fact-finding processes?
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with organisations in The Philippines 
Organisation World Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation
Country India 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution Members of the team are involved in a follow-on project, supported by Swansea University's Global Challenges Research Fund and Cherish-DE Escalator funding, which examines best practices in the collection of victim accounts, and whether it is feasible to provide psychosocial support through a helpline-like online system by semi-automatically detecting emotions such as helplessness, distress and frustration in personal accounts through natural language processing.
Collaborator Contribution Ateneo de Manila University will develop a platform underpinned by blockchain technology, which will integrate the NLP tools to be developed by the Co-I (Batista-Navarro) and post-doctoral researcher from this project. WAPR-Philippines are the project partner who will test and utilise the platform to be developed.
Impact This collaboration will enable us to deploy research excellence (in human rights/international law and natural language processing) to generate solutions to two pressing issues: A. How can advanced technological methods be deployed to enable organisations to support victims of mass human rights violations?; and B. How can evidence be preserved in such a way as to ensure their potential use for future prosecutions of such widespread violations and/or human rights fact-finding processes?
Start Year 2019
 
Title Machine-learning based models for NLP tasks 
Description Three types of new NLP tools have been developed: a. New machine-learning based models for hate speech detection b. "In Today's Hate", a web application that detects hate speech from tweets in real-time c. A hybrid (rule and machine learning-based) model for recognising Arabic place names These will be or have been incorporated into the KHF virtual machine. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2019 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Using a combination of rules and machine learning, we have been able to address the challenging task of recognising Arabic names of places, outperforming the state-of-the-art tools for the same task by at least 17 percentage points (in terms of F-score, the harmonic mean of precision and recall). This tool was tested by Amnesty International on an existing dataset. Social media post classifiers (machine learning-based models for classifying a social media post/message as containing hate or not) obtained precision and recall of 96% and 87%, respectively, on a data set of ~25K tweets. The next step is to package our classifiers into a tool that will be usable by human rights investigators. To this end, we shall develop a web application with a graphical user interface, following the requirements of Amnesty International. We will also provide well-documented web services that will allow for programmatic access to the classifiers. 
 
Title Virtual Machine with a collection of open source software and custom tools for integration on which to build the KHF 
Description A Linux Virtual Machine with the following tools and applications installed: Python3, pip3, tweepy, numpy, scipy, gensim, psycopg2, python3-opencv, face_recognition, websockets, pandas, matlibplot, sklearn, seaborn - https://www.python.org/ R, R studio - https://www.rstudio.com/ Ruby - https://www.ruby-lang.org/en/ GRASS GIS - https://grass.osgeo.org/ PostgreSQL, pgAdmin4, postgis, pgrouting - https://www.postgresql.org/ NodeJS, NPM - https://nodejs.org/en/ Node-Red (set up as background service) - https://github.com/node-red/node-red access UI locally from web browser on 127.0.0.1:1880 help on core nodes found here: http://noderedguide.com/node-red-lecture-4-a-tour-of-the-core-nodes/ Apache2 with CGI enabled - https://httpd.apache.org/ Mapserver (CGI) - https://mapserver.org/ PHP - http://www.php.net/ Tensorflow for Python2.x - https://www.tensorflow.org/install/ VLC (video player), GIMP (image manipulation), Audacity (sound edit tool) ffmpeg Dejavu audio tool - https://github.com/worldveil/dejavu Computer Vision Applications Installed Places365 - https://github.com/CSAILVision/places365/blob/master/run_placesCNN_unified.py + http://places2.csail.mit.edu/demo.html YOLO - https://www.arunponnusamy.com/yolo-object-detection-opencv-python.html + https://timebutt.github.io/static/how-to-train-yolov2-to-detect-custom-objects/ 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2018 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact This VM will be used as the basis to build the Knowledge Hub Framework (KHF). 
URL https://www.timemirror.com/downloads/osint4rights-vm
 
Description AI for Social Impact conference/research 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Human Rights Center's Human Rights and Business Initiative co-hosted a conference with UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business and Microsoft on "Artificial Intelligence for Social Impact" all day on March 7 2019. Co-I Koenig moderated a conversation on the ways that artificial intelligence is impacting the human rights of children globally. She is currently supervising a research team at UC Berkeley who are doing research into that topic. The research team presented their case studies at the conference and hope to release a report in Spring 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description Appearance on the Today Programme, BBC Radio 4 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact PI McDermott was interviewed by John Humphrys on the BBC's flagship news and current affairs programme, Today, on Friday 15 February. In the context of a discussion on the prosecution of foreign fighters and those responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, McDermott discussed the breakthroughs provided by 'citizen evidence' (the subject of the current project), and the challenges of using that evidence to prosecute serious international crimes. This sparked a related question from Humphrys to McDermott's co-panellist, Clive Walker from Human Rights Watch.

The Today programme reaches over 7 million listeners per week.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0002hxp
 
Description Book launch: Digital Witness: Using Open Source Information for Human Rights Investigation, Documentation, and Accountability 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact OSR4RIGHTS team members Sam Dubberley, Alexa Koening and Daragh Murray launched their co-edited book Digital Witness: Using Open Source Information for Human Rights Investigation, Documentation, and Accountability with a sold-out event at Amnesty UK's office in London. The audience of 250 people - from across academia and the human rights NGO world - heard presentations about the book from Kate Allen, the head of Amnesty UK, and Clare Algar, the senior director for research at Amnesty International, as well as chapter authors from the Syrian Archive, UC, Berkeley Human Rights Centre, the Centre for Governance and Human Rights at the University of Cambridge, and the human rights NGO WITNESS. Attendees included representatives from organisations including: Videre es Credere, Eyewitness to Atrocities, Forensic Architecture, First Draft News, Reuters, Global Investigative Journalists Network, and NBC News.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/groundbreaking-book-open-source-investigation-be-launched-...
 
Description Briefing at Houses of Parliament organised by Foreign Policy Centre 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Co-I Murray presented the project's key findings at an event entitled "Getting to the truth: Using open source data to defend human rights" at the Houses of Parliament in February 2020. The other panellists were Co-I Koenig and project consultant Dubberley, and MP Chris Bryant. The event was chaired by Anne Koch of the Global Investigative Journalism Network. Dubberley discussed the issues surrounding the volume of evidence, while Koenig spoke about how facts are under attack and how people in the human rights space can build trust in facts in this new age of open source data. Murray presented this project's findings on the role of open source data as lead and corroborating evidence; OSINT's potential to allow access to sites that investigators could otherwise not reach, and the role of OSINT in shaping advocacy strategies and narratives.

The audience included journalists (Institute for War and Peace Reporting; Thomson Reuters; The Atlantic; BBC; LBC); representatives of government departments (Foreign and Commonwealth Office; HMRC; Office for National Statistics; Government Digital Service) and third sector organisations (Amnesty; International Bar Association; Transparency International; Media Legal Defence Initiative; Chatham House; Liberty), as well as parliamentarians and academic researchers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://fpc.org.uk/events/getting-to-the-truth-using-open-source-data-to-defend-human-rights/
 
Description Engagement with Amnesty International to support their investigations into human rights violations, using open source methods. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A team at the University of Essex supported Amnesty International's investigations into human rights violations by providing support with respect to the verification of open source materials, and facilitating broader lines of investigation. A key element of this support was work on a large scale investigation into the coalition attacks on Raqqa - during its liberation from ISIS - in order to identify civilian casualties. The immediate actor engaged with was Amnesty International, but the outcome of this report (due to be released end of April) will be targeted towards a significantly larger public, addressing both policy makers and the general public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Engagement with two UN Commissions of Inquiry. For this engagement we supported the investigative process for two UN Commissions of Inquiry by conducting open source investigations in support of their broader investigative plan. The specific Commissions are subject to a non-disclosure agreement. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We developed a relationship with two UN Commissions of Inquiry to support their investigations into human rights violations. Myself and a team of students at Essex worked on open source investigations and the verification of open source information, in order to both provide leads to the UN Commissions of Inquiry and to support specific elements of their investigations. The UN Commissions of Inquiry are subject to non-disclosure agreements and so cannot be named. The specific audience engaged with was the UN Commission of Inquiry investigative team, but the impact of their work is significantly broader, a principal audience of which is State-level policy makers at the UN Human Rights Council.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description Ethics and open source investigations workshop, Berkeley, January 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Co-I (Koenig) and project consultant (Dubberley) organised a workshop in January 2020, which was held at UC Berkeley. The goal of the workshop was to provide feedback on and discuss next steps relevant to a set of guidelines that aim to address several ethical considerations that have emerged in the field of open source investigations (whether conducted for journalism, human rights reporting, or legal fact-finding). The expert workshop was attended by human rights investigators, journalists, lawyers and academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Interview (Wired) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The PI (McDermott) was interviewed by Chris Stoekl-Walker for a story on 'How digital sleuths unravelled the mystery of Iran's plane crash' in January 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.wired.co.uk/article/iran-plane-crash-news
 
Description Interview for Declarations podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Project consultant, Sam Dubberley, was interviewed for an episode of Declarations: The Human Rights Podcast entitled 'What Can Maps, Twitter, and the Crowd do for Human Rights?', in which he discussed the use of open source evidence for human rights research and, amongst other things, the asymmetries inherent in open source research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://anchor.fm/declarations/episodes/What-Can-Maps--Twitter--and-the-Crowd-do-for-Human-Rights--w...
 
Description Interview for The Economist 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Co-I, Alexa Koenig, was interviewed by The Economist for a video report entitled. 'The battle for truth: fake news v fact'. This video, with the caption 'Smartphones and digital platforms are enabling people to watch the state-uncovering lies and holding the powerful to account. Evidence from open-source investigations is now being used by the United Nations and The International Criminal Court.'. examined the use of open source evidence for human rights investigations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM1ZAFcu1Vc
 
Description Interview for Washington Post 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact PI (Dr McDermott) interviewed by the Washington Post on the use of open source evidence by UN fact-finding bodies and quoted extensively in resulting article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/un-rights-investigators-comb-new-conflict-zone-internet-hate-speech/2018/11/25/cd83d5b2-dc50-11e8-b3f0-62607289efee_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.cef16076ad72
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/un-rights-investigators-comb-new-conflict-zone-int...
 
Description Interview with FFWD magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The PI (McDermott) was interviewed by Sanjana Varghese of FFWD for a story on 'takedowns' by social media companies and their impact on human rights fact-finding: 'YouTube's Drive to Clean Up its Platform is Erasing Vital Evidence of Potential War Crimes'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://ffwd.medium.com/youtubes-drive-to-clean-up-its-platform-is-erasing-vital-evidence-for-open-s...
 
Description Meeting with Open Society Foundations lawyers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On 31 January 2019, Co-I Koenig presented on and met with lawyers at Open Society Foundations in New York City. Koenig participated in three projects: 1) a panel on the ways that open source information can be helpful to disseminating information about human rights abuses and war crimes to the public and building case files for possible accountability (joined by colleagues from the Syrian Archive, SFOR, and the New York Times); 2) she led a workshop with Haley Willis (one of the team manager from UC Berkeley's Human Rights Center) to provide an introductory training on how to conduct open source investigations; and 3) she consulted with their legal teams on the kinds of open source content that could be helpful to their cases.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Participation in OHCHR Expert Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Project consultant, Sam Dubberley, represented the project at an Expert Roundtable on "Using Tech Innovation to Combat Conflict-related sexual violence", which took place on 18 and 19 February 2019. The Expert Roundtable was organised by OHCHR and Legal Action Worldwide, and brought together experts in the tech innovation space with those working on prevention and response to sexual violence in conflict to discuss how technology may be used to better respond and to contribute to the prevention of conflict-related sexual violence in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description RightsCon 2019 roundtable: Responding to Mass Atrocities in the Digital Age: Challenges and Lessons Learned from Myanmar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PI (McDermott) co-organised a roundtable at RightsCon 2019 (with Dr. Barrie Sander, Fundação Getulio Vargas, Brazil) on the issue of accountability for mass atrocities in a digital age. Drawing on the events in Myanmar, participants were invited to discuss two core questions:

1. What is the key lesson we can take from the Myanmar Fact-Finding Mission's work on the use of social media evidence for human rights investigations?

2. What are the responsibilities of social media companies to prevent, detect and/or remove hate speech, giving particular consideration to the trade-off between freedom of expression and policing hate speech, as well as the kinds of accountability mechanisms that may be applied to direct perpetrators and the platforms they rely upon to spread hate speech in practice?

Panellists included David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and a member of the Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Chris Sidoti.

A symposium of posts was published on the Opinio Juris international law blog in December 2019 following this roundtable.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://rightscon2019.sched.com/event/Pvjl/responding-to-mass-atrocities-in-the-digital-age-challeng...
 
Description TechDemo: RightsCon 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Co-I Batista-Navarro and post-doctoral researcher Ikoro presented a 'TechDemo' of our Knowledge Hub Framework tool at RightsCon Tunis in June 2019. RightsCon is the world's leading human rights and technology conference. Members of the audience expressed an interest in the early prototype of the tool presented, including requests for further information on the tool as it develops. This, in turn, led to new connections being established and further demos presented to interested persons via video-conference after the conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://rightscon2019.sched.com/event/Pw0z/tech-demos-open-source-for-business
 
Description Workshop: Ensuring Representativeness in Open Source Human Rights Investigations, Swansea, April 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A project workshop took place in Swansea in April 2019, which was attended by 25 participants from organisations including the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International; EyeWitness; Syrian Archive; Legal Action Worldwide and Deutsche Welle, and a range of Universities including Cambridge, Essex, Berkeley, Leiden, Manchester, Herriot-Watt, and Swansea, amongst others. Participants engaged in a fruitful discussion on the issues surrounding the representativeness of OSINT, and its potential 'blind spots' when used to shape and inform investigations of mass human rights violations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019