Whether it’s the war in Ukraine or the debates around COVID-19 pandemic responses, certain trends have been exposed as more prevalent in recent years. Conspiracy ideologists and purveyors of disinformation forces have taken up more and more space within the public realm that is increasingly growing into a digital and platform-oriented sphere. Within that sphere these forces are finding a growing audience to spread messages of their own truth.
The dangers and risks emanating from the global distribution of false information and conspiracy ideologies are becoming increasingly apparent.
However, these developments have also shown the immense value and need for accurate and reliable information, especially when lives are at stake.
Bellingcat, as an independent international collective of researchers, investigators, and citizen journalists, are working to ensure accurate and reliable information is collated to hold power to account. They inspire and support a global community to conduct high-quality, responsible, and transparent open-source investigations anywhere in the world. Bellingcat’s open-source investigation methods uncover issues and are based on an understanding of how online platforms, networks, and online tools work, providing researchers with tools that empower them to enrich their efficiency and scope of research.
There are a number of prominent examples of Bellingcat’s previous success in this area. Through their investigation methods, Bellingcat was able to identify crucial information about the downing of the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 17, where a civilian aircraft was shot down in July 2014 over eastern Ukraine. In addition, they uncovered the suspects involved in the poisoning of former MI6 double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, UK in 2018, as well as Alexei Nawalny’s poisoning in 2020.
The Alfred Landecker Foundation supports Bellingcat in two ways:
- In 2022, we will fund ‘BellingTech’, the organization's investigative tech team.
- Given the current situation in Ukraine, we have extended the funds to enable Bellingcat to step up its efforts in documenting the war and forming a digital memory which can later be used for accountability and justice efforts.
Ukraine Accountability Archive: Digital evidence of crimes against humanity
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has resulted in a huge amount of text, images and videos being posted online – showing the war in almost real time as it is progressing. This content forms the digital memory of a conflict, and it is vital to capture and archive it properly.
Bellingcat will enhance their collection, preservation and analysis of information on potential gross breaches of international humanitarian law in Ukraine. This allows them to investigate events even more thoroughly and to refine their analytical tools so that they can eventually submit admissible evidence to accountability initiatives and courts. Their elaborated authentication and archiving process already takes accountability into consideration from the outset.
Bellingcat will be working towards informing the public, by countering disinformation and tracking cause and effect of the attacks and potential war crimes against civilian targets.
BellingTech: Investigation on the cutting edge of technology
The Investigative Tech Team within Bellingcat ensures that it keeps up with the quickly evolving technologies that are at the core of open-source investigations. The team conducts data-intensive investigations, develops tools to facilitate the workflows of open-source investigators and collaborates with other organisations and researchers that have the same goals.
The Investigative Tech Team will also focus on collaboration between tech volunteers and the open-source software community. This will require formalizing cooperation through offering fellowships to people with a technical background.
What makes BellingTech unique?
- Open-source software meets open-source research: The Tech team brings both communities together to join forces and develop practical tools for open-source research with openly accesible codes for everyone to verify and improve. This translates into full transparency along the entire value chain.
- Translating needs and skills: As an intermediate between both communities, the Tech team helps open-source researchers to understand what software can do to support their research and vice versa, it helps software developers understand the needs of open-source researchers to develop more user-friendly tools.
- A professional tech team to develop tools for everyone: Journalistic outlets or tech companies often develop research tools that are for internal use only or to sell it to other outlets. The BellingTech team professionally develops tools for everyone to use for free.
- Allround knowledge to share: The Tech team demonstrates through guides and publications how their tools work, how they can be used and for which research purpose they can be applied. The team therefore builds the bridge from theoretical tool development to practical usage.