Guide to Open Source Research for Human Rights

Getting started

We were delighted to contribute to Amnesty International’s free-to-anyone two-part online course on the basics of open source investigations for human rights, available in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Farsi.

OSR4Rights Tutorials

Using SnapMap in open source human rights investigations

Using Tweetdeck in open source human rights investigations

Useful Guides

Led by Co-I Koenig’s Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley in collaboration with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the protocol articulates standards and guidelines for the identification, collection, preservation, verification, and analysis of digital open source information with an aim toward improving its effective use in international criminal and human rights investigations.

Edited by team members Dubberley, Koenig and Murray, Digital Witness is the first book of its kind to teach the methods and best-practice of open source research for human rights investigation, documentation, and accountability.

A guide designed to help you navigate and integrate digital data into your human rights research.


What is (digital) open source information?

Open source information is, in essence, any information in the public domain. Digital open source information is defined by the Berkeley Protocol on Digital Open Source Investigations as information on the internet that any member of the public can obtain by request, purchase, or observation.

What types of open source information are out there?

In our research (Murray, McDermott and Koenig, forthcoming 2021), we created a typology of open source information based on two key variables. The first variable asks, is the piece of information a primary source (i.e. an immediate, first-hand account from an individual who had direct experience of the event in question) or a secondary source? Secondly, is the information an individual piece of data, or an account based on an aggregation of data? While there is porosity between the categories, this distinction can be conceptually helpful.

What is the distinction between ‘open source information’ and ‘open source evidence’?

We tend to distinguish between these terms, with ‘evidence’ solely referring to materials submitted as part of a criminal process. ‘Information’ covers all other materials.


Citizen Evidence Lab is an online space to share best practices, emerging techniques, and tools for conducting investigations, combating mis- and dis-information, and contributing to a better-informed public.

WITNESS helps people use video and technology to protect and defend human rights. Their blog contains invaluable tips, including posts on documenting during internet shutdowns, choosing a documentation app, and understanding metadata.

Our OSR4Rights YouTube channel contains useful tutorials, tech demos, webinars and conversations.

Resiliency resources

The Human Rights Resilience Project seeks to promote resilience and improve mental health and well-being among human rights advocates. Its website contains many useful resources, tools, and links to recent research.

The Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley have compiled a list of useful resources on resiliency and secondary trauma.

First Draft News, Journalism and Vicarious Trauma: A Guide for Journalists, Editors, and News Organisations (while prepared with journalists in mind, many of the same issues of vicarious trauma arise with human rights research).


For tools we have developed as part of OSR4Rights, see the Technical Tools page.

Useful tools for analysis include: