Monday, February 20, 2017

HUMAN RIGHTS - High-Tech Intersect Investigations

"A new generation of human rights investigators turns to high-tech methods" PBS NewsHour 2/13/2017


SUMMARY:  Humanitarian crises like those in Syria's Aleppo sometimes make headlines.  But how do we identify such atrocities when they are occurring thousands of miles away?  A new program at UC Berkeley is training students to leverage social media, geolocation and other high-tech tools to document human rights abuses, and their findings have been brought to the UN.  Special correspondent Cat Wise reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  As we near the gruesome sixth anniversary of the war in Syria, daily documents of the carnage there now flood the Internet.  Photos and videos posted by both civilians and combatants catalog the shocking depths of human cruelty and possible war crimes.

Now human rights investigators are increasingly turning to the Internet to track what's happening, not only in Syria, but in other conflict zones.

As part of our Breakthroughs coverage of invention and innovation, special correspondent Cat Wise reports on a new university program training students to become human rights investigators in the digital age.

And a warning:  This story contains some disturbing images.

CAT WISE (NewsHour):  For decades, human rights investigators have relied on tools like shovels and backhoes to uncover mass graves and mass atrocities in places like Bosnia, Iraq, and Rwanda.  But in today's smartphone-filled world, videos and images of people killed or suffering thousands of miles away take only a couple of clicks to find on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter.

The front lines of human rights work have shifted in the digital age, and a new generation of investigators is beginning to employ high-tech tools.

STUDENT:  We can probably screen-shot that.


STUDENT:  And reverse-image it.


STUDENT:  And we should look up the name of that pharmacy.

STUDENT:  Can anyone translate that?

CAT WISE:  These students are part of the recently launched Human Rights Investigations Lab at the University of California, Berkeley's Human Rights Center.

The university and partner organization Amnesty International are training the students to verify videos and other publicly available social media content coming out of areas like Syria, where human rights violations have been occurring.

For the first time, students are using open source investigation methods used previously by journalists and human rights professionals.

YOUSTINA YOUSSEF, Student:  Oh, those are uniforms.

CAT WISE:  Youstina Youssef is a 20-year-old political science major in the program.  She's become a highly skilled digital detective.  And her native language, Arabic, also comes in handy.  Youssef grew up in Cairo, Egypt.  She and her family are Coptic Christians, a religious minority in Egypt.  They came to the U.S. in 2010 shortly before the revolution began.

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