The ability of average citizens to capture events in their communities and share their footage with the world is changing the nature of human rights documentation. Their videos provide access to detention centers, conflict zones, rural communities, and city streets, capturing abuse in real time by those who live, witness, and experience it.
But with so many videos online, there are new challenges to ensuring that they are used safely and effectively to make an impact. How do investigators, advocates, and reporters find and verify videos that expose injustice? How do we make sense of footage from multiple sources, and connect it to meaningful opportunities for justice and accountability? And how do we do so while ensuring the safety of individuals onscreen and those behind the camera?
The WITNESS Media Lab is dedicated to identifying and addressing these challenges. In collaboration with peers around the world, we develop, model, and support innovative approaches to sourcing, verifying, and contextualizing eyewitness videos and ensuring that footage taken by average citizens can serve as an effective tool for human rights.
WITNESS believes that the next stage of human rights documentation and advocacy will be powered by videos created and shared by eyewitnesses. The skills needed to use those videos safely and effectively are critical to harnessing the incredible potential that stands before us.
Every few months, the WITNESS Media Lab highlights a different human rights struggle through the lens of eyewitness video. We work with Storyful and other peers in the fields of journalism, advocacy, and technology to develop effective ways of sourcing, verifying, and presenting videos documenting that issue. Here on lab.witness.org, you’ll find curated footage, as well as analysis, cases studies, and resources we utilize and develop in the process.
The WITNESS Media Lab developed out of the Human Rights Channel–a program launched in 2012 by WITNESS, YouTube, and Storyful, to curate citizen videos of abuse from around the world–and its predecessor, The Hub. The Human Rights Channel received two Webby nominations and was a finalist for a Shorty Award for its innovative use of social media and citizen reporting. It resulted in resources used by academics, journalists, policy makers, and activists. Archived Human Rights Channel reports can be found on this site and on The WITNESS Blog.