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Digital Verification Corps Summit 2018

DVC Summit 2018

The Centre of Governance and Human Rights was delighted to co-host the 2018 Digital Verification Corps Summit on June 26-29th in collaboration with Amnesty International and with support from Open Society Foundations.

The DVC Summit was held for the second time from 26 to 28 June 2018. This year it was co-hosted with the Centre of Governance and Human Rights at the University of Cambridge. Five students from each of the DVC hubs (UC, Berkeley, USA; the University of Toronto, Canada; the University of Essex, UK; Hong Kong University, Hong Kong; and the University of Pretoria, South Africa) were invited to Cambridge, along with a faculty representative and key staff from Amnesty International. In total, the Summit hosted 33 students, four Amnesty staff and five faculty staff along with the local Cambridge team. The Summit, replicating the model from the inaugural event in 2017, was held over two days with an agenda designed to hear and gather experiences from the DVC volunteers to improve the programme as it moves forward, while also inviting ten experts in the field of open source investigations and human rights research to
lead skill-sharing sessions. 

Particular attention was paid to ensure a wide distribution of experience and gender balance in the expert presentations. Entertainment was provided to facilitate students getting to know
each other – culminating in a traditional Cambridge University ‘High Table’ dinner on the final evening. A new event we hosted this year was an evening “verification-athon” where the students worked on
verification challenges set by Amnesty researchers that fed directly into their work on the ongoing conflict in Yemen and recent violence in Nicaragua. The “verification-athon” was set up to ensure students from different DVC hubs collaborated on the research to facilitate skill-sharing and networking. This was hugely successful in getting student volunteers from different countries and universities working together, and was only possible when they were physically together.
Finally, the event garnered some media interest. The French International news channel France 24 sent a journalist who published an article while Amnesty International Germany covered the event as a main feature of their August 2018 Amnesty Journal magazine.

Summit aims:

  • Knowledge exchange on best practices and problem solving, both with respect to the discovery and verification of digital human rights information and with respect to DVC teamwork

  • Learn and practice cutting edge developments in digital discovery and verification

  • Strategise on the future of the DVCs

  • Reflect more broadly about the impact of widening participation in human rights fact-finding - through projects like the DVC - on human rights practice, as well as about the technologization of this practice 

Summit activities:

These included an annual review of the DVC by all the university teams, Amnesty’s launch of new research that relied on DVC input, a fake news game, a verification-athon, and talks from a number of experts working on the latest developments in open source investigation and digital verification. Talk topics ranged from how open source investigations can support human rights field research, to how to preserve open source information and how to collaborate across spread-out teams, as well as the relationship between open source investigations and credibility and accountability.

Speakers: 

Aliaume Leroy is an open source investigative journalist with the Africa Investigations unit of BBC World Service. Before, he was a campaigner on the Conflict & Fragile States strand at the NGO Global Witness. He has published works on arms, drug, and diamond trafficking.  His research with the Bellingcat Investigation Team concentrates on Africa and Latin America, while providing support to ongoing investigations. He also delivers training in open source investigation tools and techniques on behalf of Bellingcat. He studied Political Sciences, Economics, and History at McGill University and a master in the War Studies department of King’s College London. 

Connie Moon Sehat is Research Community Lead, Credibility Coalition and NewsFrames Director at Global Voices. Her work has focused on the intersections of computing and democratic life, whether dissertating in German history, developing International Space Station software, or working on projects like the bibliographic Zotero, the New Orleans Research Collaborative, and ELMO (election monitoring and more). Most recently, she has worked for The Carter Center, Emory University, and The Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. 

Dearbhla Minogue is a Legal Officer at the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN).  Dearbhla is a trainee solicitor specialising in public law, community care, discrimination, human rights, mental capacity and education law. She represents vulnerable clients in the UK's High Court challenges against public bodies, particularly local authorities and the NHS. She works on GLAN's projects focusing on criminal accountability in domestic jurisdictions for international crimes. Dearbhla is also an executive committee member of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights.

Donatella Rovera is Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International. She has travelled to some of the world's most dangerous conflict zones to document human rights violations in crisis situations.  Her recent research missions have taken her to Syria, Central African Republic, Libya, Gaza and South Kordofan in the Nuba mountains of South Sudan. She has also reported on crises in Cote d'Ivoire and Algeria.

Hazel Baker is Global Head of Social Media Newsgathering for Reuters News Agency with a brief to grow and direct a team dedicated to sourcing, verifying and clearing user-generated content. Prior to joining Reuters, Hazel helped to found and develop the Sky News Digital Desk. 

Lorna McGregor is Professor of Law at the University of Essex and the Principal Investigator of the Human Rights, Big Data and Technology project.  She researches and teaches in the areas of public international law, particularly international human rights law, international criminal law and transitional justice. In 2015, Lorna was awarded the Antonio Cassese Prize for International Criminal Law Studies. 

Niko Para is lead developer at the Syrian Archive. He works on the technical systems and workflows of the Syrian Archive, helping to verify observations and process large amounts of data. He makes the websites, maintains the databases, and deploys collection and verification tools. 

Patrick Worrall is lead writer and researcher of the FactCheck blog at Channel 4 News, where he has worked since 2011. In that time FactCheck has won the Best Commentary/Blogging section of the Online Media Awards in 2012, 2015 and 2016. It also received a Highly Commended for Politics Journalism citation at the 2016 British Journalism Awards.

Participants in the first Digital Verification Corps Student Summit at UC Berkeley in June 2017.

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