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Witness Video Hub

The Witness Video Hub is helping people document human rights abuses when YouTube and governments don't cooperate. Plus Big Thinker Sushmita Ghosh.

When Peter Gabriel co-founded Witness in 1992, the idea was to supply video cameras to people in the developing world to document human rights abuses. But the market beat them to it: Africa's cell-phone industry is the fastest growing in the world, and nearly everyone with a phone has or will soon have a camera. So Witness has changed gears, and is now focusing on capturing, amplifying, and disseminating user-generated videos.If someone captures footage of torture in, say, Burma, and posts it to YouTube, two things may happen. YouTube may take the video down for violating its policy against violent footage, and Burma may shut down the country's internet, as is did earlier this year when citizen journalists uploaded videos of police beating saffron-robed monks. Unlike Burma, most states with an interest in repressing speech (think China) cannot afford to shut down an entire nation's internet capabilities; instead, they censor individual websites. That's where Witness comes in: It can ensure that videos uploaded to their site are held there permanently, in servers sitting in an undisclosed country.

Sushmita Ghosh

The open-source concept created a whole new way of doing business, reinventing the pathway to huge scale and impact. For example, eBay has the users doing the work, in a self-regulating community. The trick is to simply think through the incentives for the community to grow itself in a transparent way, for collective conscience to rise against someone who breaches the code of ethics. I believe that applying these open source principles to the building of a global network of communities could redefine how social innovations get big. This approach could unite and amplify those innovations and greatly accelerate their impact-just as it did for business. Innovators who are driven by the desire to fix social problems have a built-in incentive to make the engineering of their solutions totally transparent, because that's the only way they're going to spread their change.Sushmita Ghosh served a five-year term as president of Ashoka (one of GOOD's nonprofit partners) and is now as a member of Ashoka's Leadership Team.

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