Our Human Rights Digital Investigations Lab, founded and directed by Assistant Director Jess Peake equips law students with vital digital investigations techniques, including identifying, documenting and verifying digital evidence of human rights violations and war crimes, for use in an array of accountability mechanisms.

Our partnerships with human rights organizations, advocacy groups and lawyers further enrich students’ training, exposing them to the complementary research and analytical techniques used by other actors in the field.

Announcing the Iranian Archive

We are collaborating with a powerful coalition of human rights organizations to launch the Iranian Archive. This landmark archive forensically preserves +1,300,000 vulnerable digital artifacts recording serious human rights violations committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran against Woman, Life, Freedom movement protesters.

The Iranian Archive is intended to support future investigations and accountability proceedings. Many of the events documented appear to be serious human rights violations and may amount to crimes against humanity.

For accountability orgs seeking access to the Archive, please contact Jess Peake, promiseinstitute@law.ucla.edu.

Read the Announcement

Indigenous Land Defenders of Brazil:
In Memoriam (2019-2022)

A report on the lives of thirteen Indigenous leaders and emerging regions of risk in Brazil

We are proud to share our latest report: Indigenous Land Defenders of Brazil: In Memoriam (2019-2022). 

Indigenous defenders in Brazil are engaged in the latest chapter of a centuries-long struggle to protect their ancestral lands from exploitation and abuse. Opposing them are the many actors seeking to separate Indigenous Peoples from their land; people who often portray Indigenous Peoples as barriers to their progress. The resulting tension has led to profiteering and violence on a jaw-dropping scale. 

To document what is happening on an individual level and how it connects to broader regional threats against Indigenous environmental defenders in Brazil, student researchers in the University of California Digital Investigations Network leveraged online open-source information, broadly defined as publicly available information on the internet. This includes social media, reports from news sources, governments and civil society, as well as satellite imagery to track the erosion of Indigenous territories over time.

The first part of this report profiles thirteen Indigenous leaders and land defenders from seven regions in Brazil killed between 2019-2022, with some caught in the middle of intense environmental crises. The second part includes additional information on the seven Brazilian states in which the defenders were killed. Taken together, the individual defender profiles and information about select regions starts to paint a picture of how and why these killings of Indigenous defenders have occurred.

This report is unique in the way that it maps the threat Indigenous land defenders face as they stand up to extractivists. Promise Institute Assistant Director and head of our Digital Investigations Lab, Prof. Jess Peake noted “The report is a powerful advocacy tool which highlights a small fraction of the deaths of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil, many of which remain otherwise invisible to outside communities.”

Experience the Full Report Here Experimente a versão em português aqui!
The faces of six of the murdered Indigenous land defenders in Brazil featured in the report.

This report was produced in partnership with Cultural Survival and the University of California Digital Investigations Network which comprises human rights digital investigation labs at the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley, the Dolores Huerta Research Center for the Americas at UC Santa Cruz, and the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA Law.

Online Disinformation and the 2022 US Midterm Elections

Starting last fall, student researchers in the Human Rights Digital Investigations Labs under the direction of Jess Peake at the Promise Institute for Human Rights and Sylvanna Falcón at the Dolores Huerta Research Center for the Americas at UC Santa Cruz, part of the University of California Digital Investigations Network, launched an independent online investigation to monitor voter suppression, intimidation and disinformation narratives during the 2022 U.S. midterm elections. 

This research culminated in three reports. What the students found was unsettling.

The first report, Disinformation & Decentralization, examines how viral videos helped spread election denialism in Arizona’s 2022 Midterm.

Explore: Disinformation & Decentralization

The second report details the process and open-source tools and techniques the team utilized to document and investigate disinformation narratives during the research, which may serve as a model for future election monitoring

Read: UC Student Research Team Monitors the 2022 Midterm Elections for Voter Suppression and Misinformation

The third report provides the most comprehensive, aggregated list of all election skeptics and deniers elected throughout the U.S. in the 2022 midterms. This will provide a useful research tool for those wanting to understand how far conspiracy theories have infiltrated elected offices.

Read: Summary List of Election Deniers and Skeptics Elected to Office During the 2022 U.S. Midterms

A Cutting-Edge Course

Human Rights and War Crimes: Digital Open-Source Investigations

In a course designed to prepare students for cutting-edge work, Jess Peake unpacks the concepts and practices underlying digital open-source investigations. From legal requirements to practical skills, the purpose and history of these investigations, ethical considerations, identifying trauma responses when investigating atrocity crimes, and the history of open-source investigations in human rights organizations and international courts, students gain valuable skills for any legal career.

Learn More

“I’m so excited to introduce these innovative techniques to our UCLA Law community. From ascertaining the time and place of images taken nearly anywhere around the world, to determining instances of disinformation (and more), OSINT methods are something of a revolution in evidence collection.

“They are increasingly invaluable when investigating human rights violations and we are preparing our students to hit the ground running in this important work.

Assistant Director, Jess Peake

Our Report on Social Media Content Moderation and International Human Rights Law

Click Here for Downloadable PDF

“OSINT training has allowed me to harness new digital research skills and opened my eyes to the myriad ways I can utilize the Internet to serve as a stronger legal advocate for clients. It is an invaluable course that will stay with me beyond law school as I dive into my legal career.”

Aya Dardari ’21

A Leading Partnership

Searching for Truth Online

We are proud to partner with the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley and the Research Center for the Americas at UC Santa Cruz to create the University of California Digital Investigations Network.

Together, we are building the foremost interdisciplinary training network for students to learn cutting-edge open-source investigation research techniques.

Training includes:

  • How to Think Like an Open-Source Investigator 
  • How to Plan an Investigation
  • Advanced Methodologies
  • Geolocation & Chronolocation
  • Legal and Ethical Considerations Specific to this Type of Research