FFDW and WITNESS Collaborate to Preserve Authentic Human Rights Records

Today, WITNESS is thrilled to announce a new partnership with the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web (FFDW), a new grantmaking organization whose mission is to preserve humanity’s most important information. We’re pleased to share the full announcement as published on FFDW’s blog below: 


FFDW and WITNESS Collaborate to Preserve Authentic Human Rights Records 

FFDW’s commitment to WITNESS will support the creation, authentication, and preservation of trusted documentation

Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web (FFDW) is proud to announce our grant to WITNESS, an international nonprofit organization that helps people use video and technology to create, preserve, and use human rights records. FFDW and WITNESS will work together to explore how the decentralized web can enable human rights records to be authenticated and preserved in ways that protect privacy, autonomy, and user control. WITNESS will also identify how the decentralized web can support the work of activists, civic journalists, and smartphone witnesses who go to great lengths to capture human rights accounts, building upon a 30-year history bridging the needs of communities with the global technology systems in which they live and work.

It has never been more critical that people have access to trustworthy human rights records. Technology has made it easier than ever to capture content, and video has become a key tool to document human rights abuse and share the truth. Yet, it is also easier than ever to manipulate media. Anyone with general editing software can create shallowfakes, and deepfakes make it possible to digitally alter a video to change someone’s appearance or identity or make them say something they never said. These tools enable bad actors to disrupt democracy, spread misinformation, and undermine trust in human rights accounts overall. 

Additionally, as the internet has become increasingly centralized, human rights records are vulnerable to corporate control or single-point failures. Internet shutdowns have become a tactic to suppress vital information. And when content is removed en masse from private sector platforms, we run the risk of human rights truths being lost forever. The decentralized web can help safeguard these records: it allows activists and others to authenticate and record ownership of human rights accounts that they’ve captured, establishing trust in those records. It can also protect against reliance on central and privatized infrastructure by storing data on a distributed and secure network. 

The FFDW grant will enable WITNESS to support communities to preserve human rights records that are at risk of being lost, misrepresented, or manipulated, and explore how decentralized technology can support these efforts. The multi-pronged approach will include: 

  • Developing community-based archives to gather and preserve important evidence;
  • Influencing authenticity infrastructure (an emerging set of technologies that helps track the provenance and manipulations of media to combat misinformation) to ensure the terms for trust are set by at-risk communities and not just technology companies; and 
  • Encouraging learning and sharing between at-risk-communities to develop ground-tested resources, tools, and practices. 

Everyday, a growing number of civic journalists and smartphone witnesses are creating and preserving human rights records,” said WITNESS Program Director Sam Gregory. “Whether their efforts lead to justice is shaped by an ecosystem of emerging technologies that are often distant and unaccountable to their needs. We’re optimistic that decentralized web technology can help us further our efforts to safeguard the voices and narratives of historically marginalized groups and ensure they can be leveraged to bring accountability.”

Among the key initiatives that will benefit is a human rights archives program. WITNESS has decades of experience supporting activists to preserve critical documentation in contexts such as Brazil, Myanmar, Syria, the United States, and Yemen. The FFDW grant will support a range of frontline actors to create and sustain community archives that preserve documentation of state violence and war crimes, while centering grassroots needs. This work is closely linked to WITNESS’ ongoing efforts shaping a set of standards for authenticity infrastructure.

“We’re proud to support WITNESS with this grant,” said FFDW Board Chair Marta Belcher. “FFDW’s mission is to preserve humanity’s most important information, and this collaboration with WITNESS is a natural fit to further these efforts.”

Learn more about FFDW grant programs here!


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