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two people walking through city rubble
two people walking through city rubble

Amnesty International

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Case Study

January 29, 2023

Amnesty International is the world's leading human rights organisation, campaigning against injustice and inequality worldwide. Their Crisis Response Programme is a pioneer in digital human rights investigations and processes thousands of data points to research, evidence, and document human rights violations by governments and others worldwide. 

Global challenges & AI-powered solutions

Often the tools to help with this research are skewed to show events in the Global North/West, whereas a lot of the crises Amnesty International cover are in the Global South. Such tools are often slow, noisy, or both, requiring constant monitoring and tweaking to make sure the parameters are fit for purpose, as well as in-house corroboration to group the data together.

This is where samdesk stepped in. By using our AI-powered platform to detect, corroborate and alert on global crisis events in real-time, Amnesty International are able to spend more time on verification, evidencing, and campaigning.

We spoke to Sam Dubberley, Head of Evidence Lab, Crisis Response about the work that they do, the challenges they face and how they have found using and integrating samdesk into their workflows.

man looking at a laptop

Photo © Andrea DiCenzo 2019, Amnesty International

What made you choose the samdesk platform?

With the unending variables of eyewitness reports, it’s a lot to keep on top of manually with tools like Tweetdeck. We’re often pressed for time and so previously we would have had to spend a lot of time, time we don’t have, trawling through a myriad of social media posts just to verify if it’s something we should look into further.

With samdesk, all of that information is in one Alert. We don’t have to collate it ourselves, just look through the Alert to see what information there is about that specific event. It’s also helpful in that when a Samdesk Alert comes through, you know you’re seeing the first indications of an emerging or breaking situation.

One of the other great things about the Samdesk Platform is its unique access to Snapchat. Snapchat is very useful given its strong visual focus in a wide variety of countries. With Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Brazil amongst the leading Snapchat users globally, direct access to these on-the-ground images and videos can be crucial when taking steps towards verification and ongoing investigations. One of Amnesty International’s most recent investigations into Iraqi security forces use of excessive force found Snapchat content pivotal.  

Social media is a critical place for us to research and verify evidence of war crimes and other serious human rights violations that might otherwise pass under the radar. The challenge with social media is that it is a very busy and loud place - finding the signal in a timely manner is nearly impossible without the right technology. That is why we’re pleased to be working with the samdesk team and leveraging their Artificial Intelligence platform to help us hone in on what matters quickly so that we can start our work while the trail is still fresh.

two people talking amonst rubble

Photo © Andrea DiCenzo 2019, Amnesty International

What kind of Samdesk Alerts does Amnesty International take action on?

We take action on all sorts of Samdesk Alerts, often different event types for different countries. Most recently, we worked on human rights violations by governments and law enforcement officials across the world during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Though COVID-19 has dominated the news cycle, there are a lot of other crisis events happening that seemingly fly under the radar. For example, we received a Samdesk Alert indicating that 20 people had been killed and many more injured in Sudan’s Darfur region, prompting preliminary inquiries from our team. Without samdesk, we wouldn’t have heard about that happening.

woman crouches down and takes a photograph

Photo © Andrea DiCenzo 2019, Amnesty International

How does samdesk fit into your current workflow?

Samdesk fits straight into our workflow here at Amnesty International. We’re used to using complex data gathering tools but samdesk has been really easy to use and integrate. We set up our Streams so we could see the specific locations and event types we needed and receive our notifications via email. It’s a lot less noisy than other tools and more granular so, when something of interest comes in, we can liaise with our country researchers and make a decision on whether or not it’s something that needs further investigation.

It’s critical that we take the time to analyse all of the information available, to not only react to breaking events but also carry out investigations ranging from months to year-long projects. Having samdesk provide multiple sources in one place definitely makes the data-gathering part of our workflow easier.

How does samdesk help you achieve your mission at Amnesty International?

One of the biggest goals of the Crisis Response Programme is to monitor and raise awareness of forgotten conflicts. There are, unfortunately, human rights violations and crises happening all over the world and, oftentimes, they’re not covered by Western media. But, just because the attention goes, doesn’t mean it’s over. Samdesk helps us by bringing awareness to these global crises that happen on the darker areas of the map whether it be from on-the-ground, eyewitness reports, local media, or official organisations in the area.

Would you recommend samdesk for finding real-time crisis alerts?

Absolutely I would. For our challenge of monitoring conflict situations and crises that don’t get the attention globally we think they should, having a tool like samdesk is really important.