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[liberationtech] Florida State University Professor Developing Project to Authenticate Human Rights Abuse Evidence

Yosem Companys companys at
Sun Oct 20 12:23:04 PDT 2013

Social media and smartphone technology have become important tools for
sharing real-time news and first-hand accounts of world events, and
digital evidence is becoming useful in identifying human rights

A Florida State University political science professor has entered
into a joint effort with Amnesty International to develop a volunteer
network that will work to authenticate the veracity of that digital

Professor Will H. Moore, in the College of Social Sciences and Public
Policy, has launched the Citizen Media Evidence Partnership (C-MEP),
which will be staffed by college students.

"Assessing the verity of digital evidence of human rights abuses and
war crimes is a major challenge," Moore said. "With this network, we
will be able to screen thousands of videos, eliminating irrelevant
ones, and getting pertinent ones to the Amnesty International research
staff, who will then make use of them in their work holding
governments accountable for respecting human rights."

A version of C-MEP is being developed this fall by Moore, Florida
State political science doctoral student Scott Meachum, and Amnesty
International USA’s Scott Edwards and Christoph Koettl. In this phase
of the project, seven Florida State students will spend three weeks in
training to learn how to validate location and other information about
videos of human rights abuses.

Video can provide important evidence that augments or corroborates
evidence from other sources, ranging from eyewitness accounts,
satellite imagery, news accounts and even Tweets or other text posts
on social media. The problem, according to the team, is the large
amount of video that gets posted in any given conflict area.

“The Crisis Prevention and Response Unit at Amnesty International
(USA) cannot begin to process the flood of material available, sift
the wheat from the chaff, and then validate that the few potentially
relevant videos actually contain footage from a specific location of
interest,” said Koettl, the emergency response manager at Amnesty
International. “A network of volunteers, however, can be trained to do
precisely that.”

The team hopes to roll out the second stage of the project in January
2015, during which they will add three to five teams of volunteer
students at other U.S. universities, Moore said. If all goes well, the
project will “go live” in September 2015 with the eventual aim to add
teams of volunteers at several dozen schools and perhaps a partnership
network that has chapters across the globe.

The issue of digital documentation and authentication is also being
undertaken by iWitness, a digital solution in development by the
International Bar Association. IBA’s Executive Director Mark Ellis, an
alumnus of Florida State’s College of Social Sciences and Public
Policy and College of Law, announced the project this summer.

The iWitness Project hopes to significantly impact the way human
rights abuses and other international crimes are documented for more
secure and verifiable use by media outlets and courts.

Uploaded photos and videos are likely to be rejected or given little
weight in courts because they are rarely attributed and verifiable and
do not include information such as the date, time, geographical
coordinates, participants and so on.

iWitness aims to provide a solution to this challenge with a
user-friendly app easily downloaded to smartphones and designed
specifically to record and transmit evidence of international crimes
while protecting the identity of the person recording. The material is
then securely sent to an iWitness database and reviewed by a
professional legal team.

In addition to his work with the International Bar Association, Ellis
is an adjunct professor in the Florida State University College of
Law. He team-teaches a course in International Human Rights Law with
Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, president emeritus of Florida State
University. Ellis is also the 2013 recipient of the Distinguished
Alumnus Award from the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy.

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