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You Tube unveils Human Rights Channel in partnership with WITNESS & Storyful
You Tube unveils Human Rights Channel in partnership with WITNESS & Storyful
By: Sneha Bokil-Paranjape

“From its inception, YouTube has been a platform for free expression”. These are the words that opened YouTube’s latest blog post announcing the launch of its Human Rights Channel, which intends to “shed light on and contextualize under-reported stories, to record otherwise undocumented abuses and to amplify previously unheard voices.”


YouTube has partnered up with WITNESS, an international organization that utilizes video for human rights advocacy and Storyful, a social network of aggregated news to create a powerful new outlet that offers the world a new venue to spotlight important stories related to human rights cases around the world.

YouTube has become a hub of human activism and social rights. On one hand it is a host of viral videos that are more entertainment than inspiring while on the other it is a platform for showcasing human rights and people movements. YouTube said, “In the case of human rights, video plays a particularly important role in illuminating what occurs when governments and individuals in power abuse their positions.”

Witness will be responsible for ensuring content is balanced and has adequate context. Storyful will source and verify the entire channel’s content.

This move by YouTube follows the video service’s long-standing support of human rights activism, both globally and in local communities including its pivotal role in 2010s Arab Spring as well as in the Occupy movements in nearly every major American city.

In all, there’s 35 playlists on the Human Rights channel that covers everything from the Occupy Wall Street protests to the deaths of journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik in Syria to a profile on the human rights conditions of North Korea. It will also launch stories from the U.N. like an anti-government hunger strike in Bahrain, clashes in Cambodia over land rights and many more.

The playlists juxtapose professional videos from established organizations like Amnesty International and PBS with very raw footage uploaded by YouTube users, as seen in the harrowing in-depth series about a Tibetan nun’s self-immolation to protest China’s occupation of the country.

According to YouTube, 100,000 videos were uploaded during the height of the revolution in Egypt, representing a 70% increase over the previous three months. And Egypt’s not the only example — we’ve seen YouTube content creation from protests in Syria, Russia and Chicago.

Beyond protest footage, YouTube says the channel will highlight topics such as police brutality, discrimination, elder abuse, gender-based violence, socio-economic justice, access to resources and bullying. Videos will also be curated from non-profit organizations working in the human rights space.

Consequently, the channel is “dedicated to curating hours of raw citizen-video documenting human rights stories that are uploaded daily and distributing that to audiences hungry to learn and take action. The channel which will also feature content from a slate of human rights organizations already sharing their work on YouTube, aims to shed light on and contextualize under-reported stories, to record otherwise undocumented abuses and to amplify previously unheard voices.”

YouTube added that it has high hopes in reaching an enlightened audience with its new channel.

The blog post read, “We hope this project can not only be a catalyst to awareness, but offer people new avenues for action and impact. The channel is committed to providing new citizen creators as well as viewers with the tools and information necessary so that every citizen can become a more effective human rights defender.”

The channel will feature:

Daily updates of breaking stories, alerts and related campaign videos.

Featured stories through playlists gather videos together to provide insight into an evolving situation or an under covered issue.

Profiles of videographers and organizations on YouTube who have made a major impact or a significant contribution to video for change.

Tools and tactics offering 20 years of WITNESS expertise in video for change.

The channel seeks to be the preeminent source for collecting and sharing citizen video relevant to human rights.

Anybody can suggest a video for inclusion in a playlist by emailing the YouTube URL as well as pertinent information about the video to witness@storyful.com. Storyful will be checking up on the sources of the videos to make sure they’re the real deal while WITNESS will be moderating channels to make sure the content is calibrated to accurately and effectively inform audiences about the specific human rights issue depicted in the videos.

This project will offer users new avenues for action and impact on Google+, where the broader human rights community will take part in discussions, share their material and find collaborators.