Open Source Investigations as Push Back Against Misinformation and Affronts to Human Rights Online

Open Source Investigations as Push Back Against Misinformation and Affronts to Human Rights Online

By Richard Ngamita |

In August 2018, a video of what appeared to be Ethiopian policemen assaulting a man by the roadside was shared on Twitter. There seems to have been a rapid response from the Addis Ababa Police Department (@Addispolice), leading to the arrest of the culprits due to the virality of the video.

The incident, is one of many which highlights the growth and use of the internet by the young populations in Sub Saharan African, especially those using all forms of social media platforms, and devices such as camera phones. It also highlights their unprecedented ability to create and share vast amounts of content across the region and globally almost instantaneously. This has also led to a shift in who the trusted sources of news are. It is no longer only governments or the mainstream media, but also the everyday user of online platforms including social media.

Albeit a positive development, the shift has also contributed to rampant cases of disinformation and  misinformation across Africa. This situation is worsened during election periods and network disruptions (internet/social media shutdowns) as online information becomes limited ot accessible  only by those able to circumvent the disruption. As such, countering the vice, whether to establish a more truthful narrative, or provide counter arguments is vital.

At the recently concluded Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa 2019, Richard Ngamita, a Data Specialist hosted a session on Open Source Intelligence (#OSINT). The session was aimed at introducing participants to web and social media networks as data sources for investigative journalism, blogging or research. It also sought to support the push back against misinformation and affronts to human rights online and offline.

In some ways, investigating related content and coming up with conclusive findings have furthered the cause of transparency, as individual citizens have a greater capability to examine and expose government actions as demonstrated in the Ethiopian Police case.

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