Centre news

Workshop: Open-source investigation for human rights - Ethics, methods and practices

Centre organises collaborative workshop with the Human Rights Center at UC-Berkeley and Amnesty International.

A workshop organised by the Hertie School's Centre for Fundamental Rights in collaboration with the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley and Amnesty International's Crisis Response Team took place at the Hertie School in January. The workshop provided an overview of the history, ethics, methods and best practices associated with open source research. Participants in the workshop - human rights lawyers, civil society activists and Hertie School students - learned how open source research can be incorporated into documentation and investigation processes for human rights advocacy and accountability.


Read participants' reviews of the workshop:

  • "Being given the opportunity to participate in the workshop on ‘Open-source investigation for human rights: Ethics, methods, and practices’ was an experience of a lifetime. The workshop provided profound insights and methods on how open source can be incorporated into documentation and investigation processes for human rights advocacy and accountability. Lawyers, as well as the Citizen Evidence Lab, demonstrated to international researchers, journalists, investigators, and students how to explore and share cutting-edge investigative techniques in human rights. It included guides and practices on tools and techniques to verify open source information and find layers of evidence of human rights abuses. The demonstrators presented case studies showing how methodologies such as video and photo verification, remote sensing analysis, and weapon analysis can expose and corroborate evidence of human rights abuses. The interactive workshop allowed participants to receive individual advice and further practices for their particular field of investigation on the one hand, and build upon the foundation of self-care and well-being when dealing with investigations of human rights abuses on the other hand.”

         Clarissa Holzner, MIA Student, Hertie School


  • "Having spent three days immersed in the open-source investigation for human rights, I was presented with the opportunity to learn about a range of topics, spanning from verification, to geolocation, and vicarious trauma.  I particularly enjoyed the interactive aspect of the workshop, whereby the methods were presented and explained, and the participants then given the chance to test their own skills. It quickly became apparent that this was harder than it looked! The trainers were great at answering any questions asked, and made sure to advocate the self-care aspect of investigation. Participants, originating from all over the world, shared their own personal insights and experiences, which facilitated the exercises and encouraged broad discussion. I would highly recommend the workshop to anyone - not just to those who have made research their life's work. It made me aware of different approaches which can be applied to any aspect of professional life, and exposed me to a plethora of opinions which would otherwise be difficult to come by."

          Sophie von Ungern-Sternberg, MIA Student, Hertie School


  • "The Open-source Investigation for Human Rights workshop, run by Hertie’s Centre for Fundamental Rights together with the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley and Amnesty International's Crisis Response Team was a fascinating crash course into the world of human rights investigation using digital means. We have all seen shocking images or videos on the news or social media that seem to show human rights abuses or other tragedies, but in an era where claims of “fake news” and disinformation campaigns have become increasingly common, learning how to investigate, analyze, verify, and preserve digital evidence is an invaluable skill for human rights activists, or truly, any concerned citizen.

    The expertise of the trainers, in both the technical and human experience aspects of the workshop was outstanding. Many of the skills that were taught, from reverse image search to identify misattributed or out-of-context images, to tracking origins of online videos, are valuable even to regular citizens and policymakers who want to make good decisions on what to believe or how to approach media content. For investigators, much more complex concepts were included, such as how to discover the location and time a video was taken using online geo-mapping or shadow-mapping tools. “Back-end” digital tools were also taught, such as working with and analyzing metadata and how to download a website in its current form so that its content be preserved and investigated without revealing the investigator's digital footprint. The legal aspects of the kind of digital evidence which can be used in court, and the procedures and steps of how to collect and verify it so that it is legally admissible, or in forms that can be validly used to demand action from authorities was also a crucial aspect of the training. In addition to the tools and skills the workshop introduced, the trainers also focused on human security, mental health, and team support aspects of human rights investigation.

    In short, this was one of the most “hands-on”, and practically focused professional workshops I have had the privilege to attend. I hope it will be repeated in the future as these skills are essential for informed public and policymakers."

         Jessica Roberts, MPP Student, Hertie School