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School of Law

Pioneering Guide Helps Judges to Navigate Digital Open Source Evidence

'Evaluating Digital Open Source Imagery: A Guide for Judges and Fact-Finders,' a groundbreaking resource from Dr Daragh Murray, Senior Lecturer and IHSS Fellow, is aimed at equipping judges and fact-finders with essential tools to effectively evaluate digital open source evidence in legal proceedings.

A bunch of screens of people going about their lives all connected by dotted lines as if they were under surveillance.

In today's digital age, the influx of open-source information has become increasingly vital in the pursuit of accountability and justice, particularly in the realms of human rights, humanitarian law, and international criminal law. Recognising the critical role that digital open source imagery plays in legal proceedings and fact-finding missions, a collective of legal scholars, human rights advocates, and experts in open source investigation have united to produce a groundbreaking resource: 'Evaluating Digital Open Source Imagery: A Guide for Judges and Fact-Finders.'

Authored by esteemed contributors from leading institutions including Queen Mary University of London, Open Society Justice Initiative, University of California Berkeley, Mnemonic, Swansea University, WITNESS, University of Essex, University of Oxford, and the Hertie School Centre for Fundamental Rights, this pioneering guide seeks to demystify the complex process of evaluating digital open-source imagery. At its core, the guide aims to equip judges, fact-finders, and decision-makers with the necessary tools to assess the credibility, reliability, and probative value of open source evidence effectively.

"Digital open-source information has emerged as a powerful tool in the pursuit of accountability," says Dr Daragh Murray, Queen Mary University. "However, its utilisation presents unique challenges for legal professionals. This guide represents a milestone in addressing these challenges and empowering judges and fact-finders to navigate the complexities of open source evidence." Hadi Al Khatib, Mnemonic says: “We hope that this guide will assist judicial bodies in understanding and evaluating digital open source evidence, crucial for advancing accountability and justice in our digital age."

Designed as a comprehensive resource, the guide covers a range of key issues relevant to the evaluation of digital open-source information, including authenticity verification, metadata analysis, and source validation. By providing clear definitions, practical examples, and insightful guidance, the guide enables users to make informed assessments and decisions when confronted with open-source evidence. Raquel Vazquez Llorente, WITNESS, notes: “As generative AI and digital manipulation techniques become increasingly sophisticated, digital evidence emerges as both a powerful investigative tool and a potential pitfall. We designed our guide to equip judges and fact-finders with the essential knowledge needed to expertly discern the authenticity of digital evidence and uphold the integrity of modern legal processes.”

"This guide fills a crucial gap in the legal landscape," notes Prof. Yvonne McDermott Rees, Swansea University. "For the first time, judges and fact-finders have access to a dedicated resource that equips them with the knowledge and tools necessary to evaluate digital open source information effectively."

Professor Ba┼čak Cali, Professor of International Law at the Hertie School and University of Oxford says, “This Guide, by making the complex and technical terrain of open-source evidence more accessible for judges and fact finders, will bring us closer to ensuring accountability for human rights violations around the world.”

'Evaluating Digital Open-Source Imagery: A Guide for Judges and Fact-Finders' represents a pivotal advancement in the field of legal practice and human rights advocacy. Its availability in multiple languages, including English, Ukrainian, Arabic, French, and Spanish, ensures accessibility to a global audience.

The guide is accessible online at the True Project website, with a launch event scheduled for Friday 24 May 2024, 3:30-5pm at Inner Temple, Crown Office Row, Temple, London EC4Y 7HL. Register for the launch event via Eventbrite.



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