The Transformational Effect of Open Source Evidence

Open source evidence – particularly user-generated content shared on social media – is of increasing importance to human rights investigations. Open source intelligence can help to overcome some of the logistical barriers, such as security and access to affected regions and witnesses, that investigators face. It has been heralded for its great democratizing potential, by hearing some of the voices that have traditionally been silenced in investigations. Drawing on a two-year research project and interviews with investigators from a range of fact-finding missions, commissions of inquiry, and other investigations, this paper sets out some key findings on the perceived role of open source evidence in largescale human rights investigations. It examines this type of evidence’s increasing importance in shaping narratives and advocacy strategies, and reflects on some of the hidden impacts of these developments.