About Christoph Koettl

Christoph Koettl is an advisor and trainer for technology for human rights. He specializes in the use of satellite imagery and video in human rights investigations, and is the founder and editor of Amnesty International’s Citizen Evidence Lab, the first dedicated resource on social media authentication for human rights researchers. He previously worked and studied in Austria, the Netherlands and Italy and holds an MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His expertise is in International Humanitarian Law, conflict analysis, video authentication and social media forensics. He feels passionate about crisismapping, digital storytelling and photography.
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The Story Behind The Nigeria Satellite Images

Satellite image of the village of Doro Baga (aka Doro Gowon) in north-eastern Nigeria taken on 2 Jan 2015. Image shows an example of the densely packed structures and tree cover. Satellite image 2, taken on 7 Jan 2015, shows almost all of the structures razed. The inset demonstrates the level of destruction of most structures in the town. The red areas indicate healthy vegetation.

The town of Doron Baga, Nigeria, before it was largely razed by Boko Haram. 2 January 2015 © DigitalGlobe

Amnesty International today released satellite images that show the impact of a horrific Boko Haram attack in northeast Nigeria last week. The images, combined with several testimonies, provide shocking evidence of how the conflict is dramatically escalating, with dire consequences for civilians. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Real vs. Fake: How To Authenticate YouTube Videos

Citizen Footage

During crises or disasters, YouTube is widely used to share footage – including a host of videos that are old or, in some cases, staged or faked. An enormous challenge for human rights workers, journalists or first responders alike is to separate fact from fiction. Now, there’s a website that can help.

The Citizen Evidence Lab - launched today – is the first dedicated verification resource for human rights workers, providing tools for speedy checks on YouTube videos as well as for more advanced assessment.

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Tech and Human Rights at #SXSW

A cellphone can be both a powerful tool and a huge risk for human rights activists. Images and videos captured through mobile phones can reveal police brutality or even war crimes, as the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have shown.

However, information saved on activists’ cell phones can also expose dissident networks or other sensitive data. During the recent protests in Ukraine, police reportedly used locations revealed through cell phones to track protestors.

The “digital arms race” between activists and repressive governments is the main focus of our SXSW panel Caught in the Act: Mobile Tech and Human Rights on Tuesday, March 11.

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How to Tell Which Crisis Images Are Real – And Which Are Fake

During Hurricane Sandy, NPR posted this image showing soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery guarding the tomb of the unknown soldiers. Though the outlet reported it was taken during the storm, it was actually taken several months before (Photo Credit: NPR).

During Hurricane Sandy, NPR posted this image showing soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery guarding the tomb of the unknown soldiers. Though the outlet reported it was taken during the storm, it was actually taken several weeks before (Photo Credit: NPR).

A few days ago, the Afghan government published an investigation into an airstrike by international forces on January 15, 2014, that reportedly killed several Afghan civilians. The investigation relied heavily on photographs and a video showing the aftermath of the strike.

In the context of the Houla massacre in Syria in May 2012, the BBC published a distressing image, showing a child jumping over a row of dead bodies.

During Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, NPR posted an image showing soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery weathering the storm and guarding the tomb of the unknown soldiers.

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Massive Syrian Refugee Crisis Visible From Space

Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, March 2013. Click to explore. Image © DigitalGlobe 2013 © Google Earth

Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, March 2013. Click to explore. Image © DigitalGlobe 2013 © Google Earth

The massive displacement crisis stemming from Syria’s ongoing conflict is increasingly visible from space. Satellite images on Google Earth reveal the growth of what in some cases looks like the emergence of whole new cities over the last two years.

A new project published today by one of our volunteers, Richard Cozzens, presents some of the most compelling images, providing a grim snapshot of the dire humanitarian situation in and around Syria. The satellite images show camps in the countries that are most affected by the influx of refugees, such as Turkey and Jordan. For example, what was an empty spot in the desert in September 2011 is now the huge refugee camp Zaatari in Jordan.

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New Satellite Images Reveal Shocking Aftermath Of Abuses In Central African Republic

In the Bouca area, approximately 485 structures—represented here by yellow dots—appear burned in imagery from November 2013. Image (c) DigitalGlobe 2013.

In the Bouca area, approximately 485 structures—represented here by yellow dots—appear burned in imagery from November 2013. Image (c) DigitalGlobe 2013.

“These new images offer a glimpse of physical scarring to homes and civic life visible from space, but the true scale of the human impact of the crisis cannot be captured by satellite.” - Aster van Kregten, Deputy Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

Expert analysis of new satellite imagery we have obtained from the Central African Republic (CAR) reveals the shocking aftermath of recent human rights abuses amid spiraling violence by armed groups and security forces.

The images - some less than a week old - include evidence of 485 homes being torched in Bouca as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs) massing near the town of Bossangoa as people flee the ongoing violence.

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How To Use Social Media In Human Rights Campaigning

Social media and digital technologies are increasingly changing the way we document and report on human rights abuses (Photo Credit: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/GettyImages).

Social media and digital technologies are increasingly changing the way we document and report on human rights abuses (Photo Credit: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/GettyImages).

I have previously discussed the many opportunities and pitfalls of social media for human rights research and advocacy, or if social media content could potentially document war crimes in Syria. This week I was invited to participate in a fascinating online discussion on how to incorporate social media into human rights campaigning. The conversation is organized by New Tactics for Human Rights and The Engine Room and is still open until the end of the week. We are off to a great start with around 35 comments, and visitors to the website this week came from more than 100 countries! If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to share your experience and thoughts.

The conversation provides several examples of how social media has been used as a tactic by various human rights organizations and other NGOs. Examples from Amnesty International include our Bahrain Twitter action or Eyes on Syria campaign and use of a YouTube playlist in our campaign to establish a Commission of Inquiry on human rights violations in North Korea. Other case studies come from Greenpeace and El Salvador, among others. A current case study – which is still unfolding – is the #SaveBeatriz campaign.

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