Video and Technology for Human Rights Documentation at COCONET

by EM News January 08, 2018
How tools and apps help to complement traditional methods of advocacy.


Video has been utilized for human rights documentation and advocacy for quite some time now and it’s power and impact seem to continuously grow. We now know that there are about 1.5 billion registered users visiting YouTube every month. That’s a huge number for an audience which is increasing day by day. But aside from the numbers, video has also acted as a catalyst for events that bring about social change such as the Arab spring, or has helped propagate another war.

One of the related sessions at COCONET 2017 (a Southeast Asia digital rights camp that was recently hosted by us at EngageMedia and partners) was ‘Video and Technology for Human Rights Documentation’. The session was delivered by Prakkash from WITNESS and Yerry Borang from our organzation who explained how activists, journalists, and human rights advocates can maximize the benefits of using video and technology in their work.

With HD, DSLR and hidden cameras becoming cheaper and more affordable, it becomes increasingly feasible for advocates to use video in their work. It’s also become more common and handy to use drones for advocacy, whether to be used as an alternative source for evidence or to document police brutality.

Today there are several useful tools and apps such as Camera V, which is one of the best ways to capture and share verifiable photos and videos on a smartphone or tablet. With this app, individuals working in difficult and high-risk situations can easily capture and gather visual evidence of rights violations and abuse of power.

It can also be used for documenting personal matters such as those related to accidents, real estate and more. All this evidence can later be verified or used in court or to prove that an event or incident actually took place.

Another interesting app is Obscura Cam, which can be used as a tool to remove metadata such as geo-location or obscure faces for anonymity. This gives people the power to better protect themselves and the identities of those captured in their photos before they are posted online.

It can be used as the default camera app on a device to take a picture, and also select photos or videos that were already taken to automatically detect faces that can be pixelated, redacted (blacked out) or hidden with a comical nose and glasses! There is also a function to invert the pixelation, so that only the person selected is visible, and no one in the background is recognizable. The app also removes all identifying metadata stored in photos including GPS location data, device model, and any internet access points. The edited photograph can be exported or shared directly to Facebook, Twitter and many other platforms.

It’s also best practice that people who want to use these tools and apps always keep in mind journalistic ethics and research on their local laws in order to understand the legal boundaries in using them in their specific locations.

View more blogposts and videos from COCONET here.