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Citizen Media Research and Verification: An Analytical Framework for Human Rights Practitioners

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Koettl, Christoph 


This paper examines the role of open source research in human rights fact-finding and seeks to address a gap in the current literature, which lacks a human rights perspective, is dominated by journalistic approaches, or focuses on specific tools. It focuses on citizen media, the visual subset of open source information, and provides a practitioner’s perspective that is based on several years of analyzing open source materials for a global human rights group. The paper includes case studies on video and image verification, and identifies best and worst practices. The author argues that open source content, specifically citizen media, can play a crucial and increasingly important role in human rights documentation, if analyzed using sound and transparent methodologies based on well-established factfinding principles. It presents, for the first time, a tool-independent analytical framework that will allow both seasoned and new human rights researchers to review and assess open source content. Specific recommendations are offered for human rights organizations, funders, academics, and technology companies in order to realize the full potential of open source content for human rights documentation.


This CGHR Practitioner Paper series, by and for practitioners, provides a space to consolidate, reflect upon, and share knowledge of human rights in the digital age. Contributors also present their work to the CGHR community, and prospective contributors are welcome to contact CGHR with submissions.

Series Editor: Ella McPherson Publisher: Centre of Governance and Human Rights, University of Cambridge Contact:,, (+44) (0)1223 767 257


open source research, human rights, fact-finding, citizen media, verification, human rights documentation, human rights practitioners

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Centre of Governance and Humen Rights, University of Cambridge

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