Digitally Disappeared: The Struggle to Preserve Social Media Evidence of Mass Atrocities

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Lindsay Freeman
Publication Date
June 1, 2022
Publication Type
Book Chapter
Open Source Investigations, Technology, Technology, Law, & Policy Program


Videos, images, and posts on social media — often referred to as “user-generated content”— can serve as valuable evidence of international crimes, but only if they are identified by investigators in time, forensically preserved, and made available to prosecuting authorities. This article examines the impact of content moderation, retention, and disclosure policies on the investigation of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. It highlights tensions between certain human rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of expression, access to information, and the right to privacy, as well as competing interests between counterterrorism professionals, human rights advocates, and international justice practitioners. Ultimately, this article considers whether data protection rules like the “right to be forgotten” can be reconciled with broader principles of international justice, like the core precept that there are horrors in this world that we must “never forget.”