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Open Source Investigations and the Technology-Driven Knowledge Controversy in Human Rights Fact-Finding

Accepted version
Peer-reviewed

Type

Book chapter

Change log

Authors

Guenette Thornton, Isabel 
Mahmoudi, Matthew 

Abstract

In this chapter, we first describe the settled practices of human rights fact-finding that open source investigations have disrupted. Although the authority to shape these practices is centralized largely with Western human rights institutions populated by professional experts, the more decentralized underpinnings of open source investigation – namely, the use of information produced by civilian witnesses and through diverse networks – have an equally long history. We go on to detail how the rise of new technologies in human rights fact-finding has allowed for the participation of new actors in the form of civilian witnesses and analysts and necessitated the participation of others in the form of technologists and machine processes. These new actors bring with them not only new data and new methods, but also new norms about what human rights knowledge should be. The clash of these new elements with established practices produces a knowledge controversy in which much is possible and much is at stake. In the subsequent chapter section, we take a closer look at what is at stake through examining the power relations within human rights fact-finding revealed and disturbed by this knowledge controversy. Namely, we look at the power to shape human rights methodology, because methodology rules in and rules out particular types of human rights information with respect to evidence. It thus rules in and rules out particular types of corresponding subjects and witnesses of violations with respect to access to human rights mechanisms that can help them, in turn, speak truth to power. Ultimately, we are concerned with the impact of these power relations on pluralism, or the variety and volume of voices that can speak and be heard, both in terms of shaping the practices of human rights fact-finding, and in terms of access to human rights mechanisms that help subjects and witnesses speak truth to power.

Description

Title

Open Source Investigations and the Technology-Driven Knowledge Controversy in Human Rights Fact-Finding

Keywords

Is Part Of

Digital Witness: Using Open Source Information for Human Rights Investigation, Documentation and Accountability

Book type

Publisher

Oxford University Press

ISBN

9780198836070
Sponsorship
European Commission Horizon 2020 (H2020) Industrial Leadership (IL) (687967)