Advancing human rights investigations now and for the future

“The Berkeley Protocol on digital and open source investigations” is the first international protocol on using social media as evidence of human rights violations. A joint publication of the UN Human Rights Office and UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Centre it offers global guidance on using public digital information. Alexa Koenig, Executive Director of the Berkeley Centre and Lindsay Freeman, Director of law and policy for the Centre, talk about its genesis.

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A lot of research done

The UC Berkeley Human Rights Center’s long history of researching issues at the cross section of science, technology and law meant we were well-placed to spearhead this effort. Shortly after announcing this initiative, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) joined the project, officially coming on board as our partner. With several UN commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions confronting the need for digital open source investigation skills — due to the increased use of smartphones and social media, as well as an increased reliance on remote research due to insecurity on the ground — the UN was an obvious and important collaborator.

“Technology agnostic” guidance

In developing the protocol, we faced another challenge: digital technologies were developing at a faster pace than the scientific methods underpinning them. Most reports and articles on the topic had quickly become obsolete due to significant technological change since their publication.

The United Nations #HumanRights office is led by High Commissioner Michelle #Bachelet. #StandUp4HumanRights

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