The Documentalist

Cameras Everywhere: A Report by WITNESS

Posted in Uncategorized by Sarah on September 16, 2011

Grace Lile, the archivist for WITNESS, a video-for-change advocacy group located in Brooklyn, NY, forwarded me information on the report described below.  While the report paints a picture of the current uses and further potentials for video in advocacy, Ms. Lile tells me that it does not thoroughly treat issues related to archiving and preserving the footage captured for advocacy campaigns.  She has asked me to post about the report with the hope that readers will generate discussion related to archiving human rights video materials.  So, I encourage you to read the report and post you comments or insights here.   ~Sarah

Cameras Everywhere

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WITNESSrecently published a new report, Cameras Everywhere: Current Challenges and Opportunities at the Intersection of Human Rights, Video and Technology  (available here) concerning the importance of video in contemporary human rights activism.  As stated in a press release, the report “provides a roadmap… on how to create a more powerful video-for-change revolution.”

Launching [September 6, 2011], the Cameras Everywhere report calls on technology companies, investors, policymakers and civil society to work together in strengthening the practical and policy environments, as well as the information and communication technologies, used to defend human rights.

“Today, technology is enabling the public, especially young people, to become human rights activists, and with that come incredible opportunities. Activists, developers, technology companies and social media platforms are beginning to realize the potential of video to bring about change, but a more supportive ecosystem is urgently needed. It is our duty, through this ecosystem, to empower and protect those who are risking their lives,” said musician and advocate Peter Gabriel, co-founder of WITNESS.

The report draws from the expertise of 40 experts in technology and human rights to paint a picture of the current role of video in activism, as well as to make recommendations for how to further mobilize individuals to take advantage of this powerful medium as they witness key events.  Based on interviews with these 40 experts, the report presents the following key findings:

  • Video is increasingly central to human rights work and campaigning. With more human rights video being captured and shared by more people than ever before–often in real-time and using non-secure mobile and networked tools– new skills and systems are needed to optimize lasting human rights impact.
  • Technology providers are increasingly intermediaries for human rights activism. They should take a more proactive role in ensuring their tools are secure and integrating human rights concerns into their content and user policies.
  • Retaliation against human rights defenders caught on camera is a commonplace, yet it is alarming how little discussion there is about visual privacy. Everyone is discussing and designing for privacy of personal data, but the ability to control one’s personal image is neglected. The human rights community’s long-standing focus on anonymity as an enabler of free expression must now develop a new dimension–the right to visual anonymity.
  • New vulnerabilities are emerging due to advanced technologies, like facial recognition, which are often instant, global, networked and beyond the control of any individual.
  • With more videos coming directly from a wider range of sources, we must also find ways to rapidly verify such information, to aggregate it in clear and compelling ways and to preserve it for future use.
  • Ethical frameworks and guidelines for online content are in their infancy and do not yet explicitly reflect or incorporate human rights standards.
  • Neither the United States nor the European Union routinely applies human rights standards in forming internet policies. And intergovernmental organizations, such as the UN, are not yet agile players within the policymaking arena of the internet. Meanwhile some governments, notably China, are making headway in both shaping policy against domestic freedom of expression and seeking to influence international standards.