Singer Peter Gabriel (of Genesis fame) tells about the almost-15-years-long experience of Witness.org, the non-profit he set up to encourage use of visual media (mainly video) and communication technology (Internet) to document human rights abuses (see here for his speech at TED2006). He tells about his epiphany meeting people that had been tortured and abused, "and what I found extraordinary is that people can suffer in extraordinary ways and then have their experience denied and forgotten. But it seems that when there is video and photo it is much harder to deny the story and for people's experience to be forgotten". Witness.org was started to give out cameras to local activists and NGOs helping them to tell their stories and raising awareness around the world -- "cell phone manufacturers did a pretty good job at that". Of course, he says, it isn't enough to get a camera out to a remote location, people need training and support. Fifteen years on, Witness.org still reaches small numbers of people. Now Witness.org is about to launch, in a few months, a Human Rights hub, "a sort of YouTube + Wikipedia for human rights", to allow anyone from anyplace in the world the chance of telling their story, have it uploaded and seen, and perhaps not forgotten nor discarded.
Gillian Caldwell, the director of Witness, gives some details on the site, as a destination for all kind of human rights-related media (audio, video, pictures) where everybody can upload, see, get educated, and act on it. This last point is crucial in the Witness.org approach, which she calls "video advocacy": use video as tool, as evidence, to raise awareness, to target key decision makers, to inflect policies, etc. There will be features on the site for organization, for activism (things like: print out 15 copies of this picture and get them delivered to members of Congress), for syndicating the content out to other sites, etc. Witness will also be organizing a "video advocacy institute" next July in Canada, bringing people together for training, with case studies, examples from all over the world, etc.
Their short presentation is followed by a discussion where a series of questions are raised about filtering or curating content (to avoid abuses of the system), about protecting both the people that upload content and those who appear on the videos, about the difficulties in using a peer-review approach for controversial content.