Project Descriptions
Spring 2023

Human Rights Investigations Lab

HRC Lab, Director  
Human Rights Center  

Applications for Spring 2023 are now closed for this project.

****Applicants should fill out this supplementary questionnaire as soon as possible:****

The HRC Lab is a collaborative, innovative, student-driven space that conducts investigations on human rights violations, violence and injustice around the globe using open source information. In the Lab, members work in student-led teams to help discover, document and verify social media content and open source information to assist a wide range of external partners on legal, journalistic and fact-finding efforts.

Examples of past year’s projects include monitoring and analyzing mis/disinformation, documenting border-related human rights violations, and tracking environmental crimes and their supply chain. A number of the projects will require students with interest in developing expertise in data science, remote sensing, information design and visualization, and cybersecurity. We welcome applications from all disciplines and aim to create a diverse, inclusive, and supportive space for students to explore, develop and dedicate their passion to human rights work in a highly collaborative environment!

Please email if you have further questions.

Role: Training and Participation Requirements:

The Lab is not a typical class! We expect students to dedicate 6-8hrs/week working with their team to advance the project and support their partner’s goals. Weekly commitment includes at least two hours in which students attend mandatory meetings and work together and another hour of a weekly seminar on Wednesdays from 5:00-6:30pm. We host a range of engaging seminars, workshops, and forums students can attend throughout the semester. While subject to change, team meetings and Lab events are held at the Human Rights Center in the Lab space. Due to security and confidentiality concerns related to our projects, the Investigations Lab will not offer asynchronous recording of any workshops, training, meetings or events.

Once enrolled, students will have the option to continue their work with the Lab in following semesters. Lab alumni who stayed with us for years say the Lab was one of the most rewarding experiences they had at Cal, and have gone on to impressive and meaningful careers.


• Working in teams to conduct open source investigations of human rights violations and potential war crimes.
• Finding online information relevant to open source investigations by combing through social media platforms and other open sources.
• Monitoring and archiving online information from live events with social media platforms and other open sources.
• Analyzing, authenticating and verifying online information—including using visual and textual clues in conjunction with satellite imagery to identify the specific locations where human rights violations took place.
• Exploring corporate, financial, transaction and additional records to map the relationships of relevant actors in illicit networks.
• Using open source investigation techniques to support the work of strategic human rights litigators in building universal jurisdiction cases for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
• Drafting reports that summarize research findings and contributing to engaging outputs.
•Attending an (almost) weekly seminar with the entire lab cohort

Learning Objectives:

▪ Experience of applying critical-thinking, digital skills, and investigative methodologies to assess the reliability and credibility of online sources and the veracity of online information.
▪ Knowledge and understanding of basic digital, physical and psycho-social security practices that are critical to an online investigation.
▪ Exercise of proper professional and ethical responsibilities to clients, the legal system, and society more generally.
▪ Knowledge of how to use online information to solve real-world problems and contribute to a more just society.

Qualifications: We seek students from all majors. Participants will collaborate on projects with graduate students in law, journalism, public health, and other disciplines. Students will be trained and given ongoing support and supervision, including guidance in regard to potential exposure to graphic or sensitive material in photographs and video.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Sofia Kooner

Hours: 6-8 hrs

Related website:

Social Sciences

Return to Project List