Crowdsourcing for Human Rights Monitoring: Challenges and Opportunities for Information Collection and Verification

Crowdsourcing for Human Rights Monitoring: Challenges and Opportunities for Information Collection and Verification

Jessica Heinzelman (The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, USA) and Patrick Meier (Stanford University and Ushahidi, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1918-0.ch008
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Abstract

Accurate information is a foundational element of human rights work. Collecting and presenting factual evidence of violations is critical to the success of advocacy activities and the reputation of organizations reporting on abuses. To ensure credibility, human rights monitoring has historically been conducted through highly controlled organizational structures that face mounting challenges in terms of capacity, cost, and access. The proliferation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) provide new opportunities to overcome some of these challenges through crowdsourcing. At the same time, however, crowdsourcing raises new challenges of verification and information overload that have made human rights professionals skeptical of their utility. This chapter explores whether the efficiencies gained through an open call for monitoring and reporting abuses provides a net gain for human rights monitoring and analyzes the opportunities and challenges that new and traditional methods pose for verifying crowdsourced human rights reporting.
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Traditional Methods Of Human Rights Monitoring

Human rights organizations traditionally operate through highly trained groups of professionals who gather and verify information under a demanding burden of proof. Researchers visit sites where human rights abuses are suspected to be taking place and conduct detailed interviews with witnesses, look for environmental clues and seek to gain a greater understanding of the dynamics at play. The role of the professional researcher becomes to collect, verify and pull information into a cohesive story that is based in fact.

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