WITNESS at RightsCon 2021 Online

For the last decade, RightsCon has served as a forum for activists, civil society, and international stakeholders to gather around critical issues, questions, and possibilities that lay at the intersection of technology and human rights. 

As a global organization committed to supporting communities to use video and technology for justice, WITNESS aligns with the central ethos of this conference. This year, we continue to build on our history of participating in this space as presenters, facilitators, and attendees. 

RightsCon is taking place online from June 7th to 11th. Those who have registered can catch the WITNESS team presenting in the following panels, community labs, and strategy sessions: 


Authenticity Infrastructure against mis/disinformation: What’s that? Who’s it for? What are the risks and benefits?

Time: 2:45-3:45 PM EST 

Type: Panel

WITNESS Team: Sam Gregory (Program Director)

On social media, shallowfaked images and videos with false captions or simple edits frequently deceive us. Deepfakes threaten to make discerning visual truth from falsehood even harder. Now proposals for ‘authenticity infrastructure’ are proliferating. These promise more robust ways to help us understand the media content we consume, and whether images, video and audio have been manipulated, mis-contextualized or edited, and when and by who. 

Featuring leading civil society experts and advocates in this area with experience in trust technology, verification, OSINT, press freedom, digital security and human rights as well as private sector pioneers this panel will highlight the initiatives in this emerging area, the key human rights questions, how to understand this in a global context, and how we balance critical trade-offs. You’ll come away with a much stronger understanding of the baseline of this emerging area of content tracking and its relevance to the mis/disinformation discussion as well as fundamental human rights questions.


“Hey you, stop filming! Defending smartphone witnessing and the Right to Record globally. What do we need to do?

Time: 7:45-8:45 AM EST

Type: Community Lab/Strategy Session

WITNESS Team: Adebayo Okeowo (Program Manager- Africa), Jackie Zammuto (Program Manager – United States), Victor Ribeiro (Senior Program Manager – Latin America and Caribbean),  Arul Prakkash (Senior Program Manager- Asia), Sam Gregory (Program Director)

As more and more people globally take out their phones to film state violence, authorities resist.  Our Right to Record is key. This right to film people with power has become even more critical during COVID and the many uprisings for social and racial justice globally.  Yet in every country worldwide, whether there are legal protections or not, the right to record is undermined and ignored in practice and witnesses threatened or harmed.

Learning from each other, we’ll identify how the right to record is exercised and suppressed, and how it relates to other struggles we currently face. Connecting the dots, we’ll identify concrete priorities for moving the right to record forward practically at national and global levels!


Manipulated Media, manipulated realities: Confronting deepfakes and shallowfakes in a global context 

Time: 9:45-10:45 AM EST 

Type: Community Lab/Strategy Session

WITNESS Team:  Indira Cornelio (Communications Coordinator – Latin America), Mahmoud Saber (Communications Consultant- Middle East and North Africa) Adebayo Okeowo (Program Manager- Africa), Jackie Zammuto (Program Manager – United States), Victor Ribeiro (Senior Program Manager – Latin America and Caribbean),  Arul Prakkash (Senior Program Manager- Asia), Sam Gregory (Program Director)

AI-manipulated videos and memes are now being normalised in politics, culture, and social media sharing. Authoritarian governments are already taking advantage of this, either by discrediting the content they do not like or, in some cases, creating manipulated media to devalue or to distract. 

Building from this we will ask the question: what are human rights defenders and journalists concerned about? With a particular focus on the MENA region but not exclusively, this session will also build on the work WITNESS has done in Brazil, sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia, and the United States focused on understanding manipulated media trends and emerging threats like deepfakes in existing contexts of gender-based violence, misinformation and disinformation and closing civil society space. We will explore from non-US/European perspectives and non-majority voices how deepfakes and shallowfakes are being handled, manipulated, or used by governments, the public and platforms amid COVID and growing state repression.  

Copyright: the ‘Double-Edged Sword’ for Human Rights

Time: 12:15-1:15 PM EST 

Type: Panel

WITNESS Team: Yvonne Ng (Archives Program Manager) 

Copyright regulation can have benefits, as well as unintended consequences, for free expression and human rights around the world. Propelled by copyright that calls for sharing of source code, open source technology can support human rights investigations. At the same time, open source projects are subject to copyright regulations that may not adequately protect non-infringing uses and can affect rights to free expression when they are the subject of a content takedown notice. Copyright regulations are also used to infringe on human rights when people seeking to suppress journalism they find objectionable pose as copyright holders and submit takedown notices.  


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