Concluding RightsCon 2023
Mnemonic’s Participation at the 12th Edition of RightsCon
In early June, RightsCon ended its 12th edition after four days of interesting, beneficial and rich events on human rights and technology. Mnemonic had the honour to participate both in-person in San José, Costa Rica, and online, with four staff members hosting sessions, speaking at panels, and facilitating or attending other events. We brought a range of perspectives and expertise to the conference from our legal, research, policy and advocacy teams, as well as our Ukrainian Archive.
RightsCon, one of the largest gatherings on human rights and technology organised annually by Access Now, continues to be a great opportunity for advocacy, with content moderation at the heart of many presentations and discussions. With vast amounts of potential evidence taken down on a daily basis from social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, Mnemonic has been engaged in the content moderation debate since 2017.
RightsCon helps advance dialogue and potential solutions around these issues by bringing together key stakeholders such as NGOs and academics working on the collection, preservation and/or verification of digital content, and the tech companies that have become accidental archives for such information. In this context, Mnemonic’s Policy and Advocacy Manager Maria Mingo attended multiple content moderation presentations, workshops, and informal discussions highlighting Mnemonic’s unique perspective and challenges faced in this space. As one of Mnemonic’s newest additions to the team, it was also a fantastic opportunity to meet in person with tech companies’ human rights staff, donors, and NGO colleagues and coalitions to strengthen the foundation for upcoming collaboration.
Ukrainian Archive, which was founded in 2022 shortly after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, participated in RightsCon for the first time, joining a panel discussion on the Berkeley Protocol in action: Successes and Challenges for Implementing Digital Investigation Standards in Ukraine. The panel had speakers from different international organisations including the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group, and Roksolana Burianenko, the Ukrainian Archive’s Program Manager. The session was organised and moderated by the Human Rights Center, UC Berkeley School of Law.
Speakers discussed the good practices, lessons learned, and challenges in operationalisation of the Berkeley Protocol in the context of the international armed conflict in Ukraine. The session concluded with emphasis on a holistic approach and inclusivity of the widely represented stakeholders in the effort of open source monitoring, collection and investigation. It also included recommendations for each emerging conflict in order to reach impactful results. Beside the good practices and challenges shared by the speakers, this panel was one of the very few online events that brought the situation in Ukraine into light.
Libby McAvoy and Jeff Deutch from Mnemonic’s legal and research team also hosted a closed session review of Mnemonic’s draft Research Handbook. First as Syrian Archive, the Mnemonic team was one of the very early groups working to build up the field of open source information and investigation as it exists today. Since Syrian Archive began its work in 2014, however, this field has constantly evolved. Shared understandings of how open source information might be used or usable as evidence have significantly advanced.
Actual use and testing of open source information and analysis as evidence in court has also progressed significantly. Thus, over the last few years, Mnemonic has undergone an extensive systems building process, the outcome of which is a new Research Handbook to set and communicate clear practices, standards, and policies for core research activities on an organisation-wide basis. Our closed review session at RightsCon was an invaluable opportunity to have in one room external reviewers from a wide range of perspectives and experience, including in digital investigation, human rights documentation, strategic litigation, cybersecurity, and forensic investigation.
We look forward to RightsCon 2024. Mnemonic will be there!