It's 1996 in Uvira in eastern Congo. This is Bukeni. Militia commanders walk into his village, knock on his neighbors' doors and whisk their children away to training camps. Bukeni borrows a video camera from a local wedding photographer, he disguises as a journalist and he walks into the camps to negotiate the release of the children. He filmed footage of the children being trained as soldiers. Many of these children are under 15 years old, and that is a war crime.
But you don't have to go to eastern Congo to find human rights abuses. In America, a country with a rapidly aging population, experts estimate that one in 10 people over 60 will experience abuse. It's a hidden epidemic, and most of that abuse actually happens at the hands of close caretakers or family.
This is Vicky. Vicky put an iron gate on her bedroom door and she became a prisoner, in fact, in her own house, out of fear for her nephew who had taken over her home as a drug den. And this is Mary. Mary picked up a video camera for the first time in her life when she was 65 years old, and she asked Vicky and 99 other older people who had experienced abuse to tell their stories on camera.
And I am Dutch, so in the Netherlands we are obsessed with the truth. Now, when you are a child, that's a great thing, because you can basically get away with anything, like "Yes, Mama, it was me who smoked the cigars."
But I think this is why I have dedicated my life to promoting citizen video to expose human rights violations, because I believe in the power of video to create undeniable truths. And my organization, WITNESS, helped use the Congolese videos to help convict and send a notorious warlord called Thomas Lubanga to jail. And the videos that Mary shot, we trained Mary and many other elder justice advocates, to make sure that the stories of elder abuse reached lawmakers, and those stories helped convince lawmakers to pass landmark legislation to protect older Americans.
So I wonder, billions of us now have this powerful tool right at our fingertips. It's a camera. So why are all of us not a more powerful army of civic witnesses, like Mary and Bukeni? Why is it that so much more video is not leading to more rights and more justice? And I think it is because being an eyewitness is hard. Your story will get denied, your video will get lost in a sea of images, your story will not be trusted, and you will be targeted.
So how do we help witnesses? In Oaxaca, in Mexico, the teachers' movement organized a protest after the president pushed down very undemocratic reforms. The federal police came down in buses and started shooting at the protesters. At least seven people died and many, many more were wounded. Images started circulating of the shootings, and the Mexican government did what it always does. It issued a formal statement, and the statement basically accused the independent media of creating fake news. It said, "We were not there, that was not us doing the shooting, this did not happen."
But we had just trained activists in Mexico to use metadata strategically with their images. Now, metadata is the kind of information that your camera captures that shows the date, the location, the temperature, the weather. It can even show the very unique way you hold your camera when you capture something. So the images started recirculating, and this time with the very verifying, validating information on top of them. And the federal government had to retract their statement. Now, justice for the people for Oaxaca is still far off, but their stories, their truths, can no longer be denied.
So we started thinking: What if you had "Proof Mode?" What if everybody had a camera in their hands and all the platforms had that kind of validating ability. So we developed—together with amazing Android developers called the Guardian Project, we developed something called a technology that's called Proof Mode, that marries those metadata together with your image, and it validates and it verifies your video. Now, imagine there is a deluge of images coming from the world's camera phones. Imagine if that information could be trusted just a little bit more, what the potential would be for journalists, for human rights investigators, for human rights lawyers.
So we started sharing Proof Mode with our partners in Brazil who are an amazing media collective called Coletivo Papo Reto. Brazil is a tough place for human rights. The Brazilian police kills thousands of people every year. The only time that there's an investigation, guess when? When there's video. Seventeen-year-old Eduardo was killed in broad daylight by the Rio police, and look what happens after they kill him. They put a gun in the dead boy's hand, they shoot the gun twice—to fabricate their story of self-defense. The woman who filmed this was a very, very courageous eyewitness, and she had to go into hiding after she posted her video for fear of her life. But people are filming, and they're not going to stop filming, so we're now working together with media collectives so the residents on their WhatsApp frequently get guidance and tips, how to film safely, how to upload the video that you shoot safely, how to capture a scene so that it can actually count as evidence.
And here is an inspiration from a group called Mídia Ninja in Brazil. The man on left is a heavily armed military policeman. He walks up to a protester—when you protest in Brazil, you can be arrested or worse—and he says to the protester, "Watch me, I am going to search you right now." And the protester is a live-streaming activist—he wears a little camera—and he says to the military policeman, he says, "I am watching you, and there are 5,000 people watching you with me." Now, the tables are turned. The distant witnesses, the watching audience, they matter.
So we started thinking, what if you could tap into that power, the power of distant witnesses? What if you could pull in their expertise, their leverage, their solidarity, their skills when a frontline community needs them to be there? And we started developing a project that's called Mobilize Us, because many of us, I would assume, want to help and lend our skills and our expertise, but we are often not there when a frontline community or a single individual faces an abuse. And it could be as simple as this little app that we created that just shows the perpetrator on the other side of the phone how many people are watching him. But now, imagine that you could put a layer of computer task routing on top of that. Imagine that you're a community facing an immigration raid, and at that very moment, at that right moment, via livestream, you could pull in a hundred legal observers. How would that change the situation?
So we started piloting this with our partner communities in Brazil. This is a woman called Camilla, and she was able—she's the leader in a favela called Favela Skol—she was able to pull in distant witnesses via livestream to help translation, to help distribution, to help amplify her story after her community was forcibly evicted to make room for a very glossy Olympic event last summer.
So we're talking about good witnessing, but what happens if the perpetrators are filming? What happens if a bystander films and doesn't do anything? This is the story of Chrissy. Chrissy is a transgender woman who walked into a McDonald's in Maryland to use the women's bathroom. Two teens viciously beat her for using that woman's bathroom, and the McDonald's employee filmed this on his mobile phone. And he posted his video, and it has garnered thousands of racist and transphobic comments. So we started a project that's called Capturing Hate. We took a very, very small sample of eyewitness videos that showed abuse against transgender and gender-nonconforming people. We searched two words, "tranny fight" and "stud fight." And those 329 videos were watched and are still being watched as we sit here in this theater, a stunning almost 90 million times, and there are hundreds of thousands of comments with these videos, egging on to more violence and more hate.
So we started developing a methodology that took all that unquantified visual evidence and turned it into data, turning video into data, and with that tool, LGBT organizations are now using that data to fight for rights. And we take that data and we take it back to Silicon Valley, and we say to them: "How is it possible that these videos are still out there in a climate of hate egging on more hate, summoning more violence, when you have policies that actually say you do not allow this kind of content?"—urging them to change their policies.
So I have hope. I have hope that we can turn more video into more rights and more justice. Ten billion video views on Snapchat, per day. So what if we could turn that Snapchat generation into effective and safe civic witnesses? What if they could become the Bukenis of this new generation?
In India, women have already started using Snapchat filters to protect their identity when they speak out about domestic violence. The truth is, the real truth, the truth that doesn't fit into any TED Talk, is fighting human rights abuse is hard. There are no easy solutions for human rights abuse. And there's not a single piece of technology that can ever stop the perpetrators. But for the survivors, for the victims, for the marginalized communities, their stories, their truths, matter. And that is where justice begins.