The Use of Open Source Investigation Methods in Tracking Environmental Harms

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University of California Digital Investigations Network
Publication Date
June 24, 2024
Publication Type
Climate, Human Rights Investigations Lab, Investigations Program, Open Source Investigations, Technology


In January 2023, the University of California Digital Investigations Network (UC Network) received a Public Interest Technology University Network grant to institutionalize and expand the UC Network to support frontline environmental defenders. During the first phase of the project, in collaboration with Cultural Survival, an organization that advocates for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and supports Indigenous communities’ self-determination, cultures and political resilience, students in the UC Network conducted an open source investigation (OSI) into the deaths of 13 murdered Indigenous land defenders in Brazil, and produced a report documenting the circumstances surrounding their deaths (also available in Portuguese). During the second phase of the project, we focused on developing a broader understanding of how OSI methods can be used to document environmental harms globally, and how OSI is being used in environmental harm research, advocacy and litigation. We conducted a literature review and case law analysis, and convened a meeting with leading several experts who are using OSI in their work, and conducted individual consultations with others.