Here at WITNESS we’re in the midst of exciting development on all our new programmatic initiatives. One of these is our ‘Cameras Everywhere’ Leadership initiative, which we’d like to introduce in this blog.
This initiative takes advantage of WITNESS’ position at the intersection of human rights, media and technology. As the use of video for change increases, we see an opportunity to become more of a leader and to provide a stronger voice of influence in creating a more conducive environment for impactful video. This entails changing norms, policies and practices, and promoting effective solutions across disparate sectors.
Some questions we’ve been asking ourselves to help frame this initiative are:
As more and more people film people speaking out and taking a stand against human rights crises, how can we protect victims and witnesses and ensure informed consent as much as possible?
As more and more footage circulates from human rights crises around the world, how does powerful footage reach audiences in comprehensible ways that move people to action?
And how do we know how to trust that footage?
The media and technology sectors set many of the parameters driving the video for change field. They influence and shape the generally accepted standards, legal structures and technological options for the creation and distribution of human rights video. By actively engaging with these sectors as well as with key communities of users and policy-makers, by framing and articulating critical issues, by facilitating case studies and research, and by promoting key digital media literacies WITNESS can play an important role in further developing the effective use of media for change.
Critical issues to address in this realm include safety and security in the use of video; ethical questions raised by the widespread capacity to shoot and circulate human rights video; challenges around the authenticity of video and the preservation of evidence; and the need for effective documentation around the use of video in advocacy.
We’ve started highlighting these issues in an editorial strand on this blog, including within our collaborative series of blogs with YouTube:
*The Ethical Engagements of Human Rights Social Media (on documentary film ethics revisited for a digital age)
*WITNESS ‘Before Filming’ training video on consent
Next Steps: Scoping Out the Terrain
In its first phase, we are now engaging with major stakeholders in grassroots and global civil society, policy-making and business to understand what they see as challenges and opportunities. We will use this analysis as the basis for a strategy that will raise awareness for key issues that are surfacing in this new frontier of human rights (i.e. informed consent, privacy, authenticity, data overload, censorship). We will also advocate for the awareness and incorporation of stronger human rights approaches, standards and practices around visual media.
In addition, the initiative will work with autonomous developers to support the creation of independent tools and applications that can increase the safety, security, and effectiveness of people using mobile and online video platforms for human rights (such as an option to conceal identity as a person films- see video below). Our goal is to ensure that the evolving online, mobile and ubiquitous video environment becomes both safer and more effective for human rights activists and those who face human rights abuses. We plan to pursue clearly defined outcomes looking to technology and policy solutions, as well as shared norms.
For example, to ensure greater protection of the dignity and safety of people who are filmed, a cohesive approach will integrate the following: an editorial blog strand, proposals for norms and technology solutions, and the development of short “spreadable” media to frame safety and consent issues for a broad audience.
Learn More About Safety, Dignity and Consent with Ubiquitous Video
You can learn much more about the background to some of our thinking on this – particularly around issues of safety, dignity, and consent – in this recent article I wrote in the Journal of Human Rights Practice, ‘Cameras Everywhere: Ubiquitous Video Documentation of Human Rights, New Forms of Video Advocacy, and Considerations of Safety, Security, Dignity and Consent’.
Stay posted for further updates on this initiative including the public summary of the scoping exercise!