In the Media: PhD student Giancarlo Fiorella uses digital open-source information to hold the world's criminals accountable

December 16, 2022 by Coby Zucker - A&S News

Giancarlo Fiorella, a PhD student in criminology at the University of Toronto, delivered Carleton University's Peter Stursberg Foreign Correspondents Lecture at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa in November. Each year, one of the world’s most influential foreign correspondents is chosen for the role.

Fiorella is a senior investigator at Bellingcat, an independent collective of researchers, investigators and citizen journalists using information freely available online to investigate conflict, crime and human rights abuses across the globe.

In his lecture, Fiorella spoke about how he and his colleagues use digital open-source information to conduct their investigations. Bellingcat researchers — many, like Fiorella, don’t consider themselves journalists — use image and video verification techniques freely accessible on the internet.

“When we publish an investigation on our website, we don’t just write, ‘Here’s what we found out,’” Fiorella says in the lecture. “We write, ‘Here’s what we found out and here are all the steps that we took to do that.’ And you, the reader, can follow along with us.”

“We can discover and share facts about conflicts that are happening in places to which we’ve never gone and may never go,” Fiorella says.

One of the major projects at Bellingcat right now is the Ukraine Civilian Harm Map. The site maps incidents of harm against Ukrainian civilians or civilian infrastructures during the ongoing war with Russia. So far, Fiorella and his colleagues have mapped 1,000 incidents with a backlog of several hundred more.

Fiorella’s lecture — and a subsequent interview — were captured on the CBC radio documentary series Ideas, hosted by Nahlah Ayed.

“What I hope motivates people to do something is the injustices that they observe happening in the world,” Fiorella says during the interview with Ayed. “That was certainly my motivation.”

In the News: