As politicians in Washington and elsewhere throw allegations of “fake news” at reports that don’t fit their preferred narratives, a team of about 100 university students from around the world are wrapping up their first year of a program that helps strike back at those claims.
The University of California, Berkeley launched the first university-based open source investigations lab last year to document and verify reports of human rights violations for international advocacy organizations and courts.
The goal? To teach students from across the campus–computer scientists and lawyers, anthropologists and sociologists–to use social media and other tools to corroborate or disprove reports of abuses at refugee detention centers, dubious arms sales, and brutal murders around the world.
What started out as a small-scale project last year has grown to include students from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, the University of Pretoria in South Africa, the University of Toronto in Canada and, soon, Cambridge University. This week, they are meeting at UC Berkeley to share what they’ve learned.