Using Crowd-Sourced Information to Track Sexualized Violence in Syria

by cindybrugge

With various sexual crimes happening around the globe, it can be very difficult to get a grasp on the sheer size and reality of the problem at hand, but a group of researchers have started to use social media to track sexualized violence in Syria.

Women Under Siege is an organization aimed at providing proof that rape is a tool of war, “not only a crime of war but a tool.” By connecting the numbers of rape with the numbers of other common war violence, they hope to prove this theory and give groups, like the United Nations, the authority to act against “gender-based genocide.”

Screen-Shot Taken from the Women Under Siege Crowd Map

Screen-Shot Taken from the Women Under Siege Crowd Map
This screenshot shows some of the elevated rape crime numbers in Syria and Lebanon. The interesting part of these statistics is that Women Under Siege collected these numbers from social media testimonies and confessions.

“Every report is coded by perpetrator and date, and mapped by location,” said an NPR report by Deborah Amos.

Director, Lauren Wolfe, is pushing many research standards because many people believe that crowd-sourced information is untrustworthy. These opinions are absolutely taken into consideration, especially in reference to the social stigma associated with rape in Arab countries and the unlikelihood of a true representative sample.

However, this is the first time in history for such research and statistics to be gathered in real time. For this reason, the project is breaking many standards for acceptable research and trying to initiate crowd-sourced information into the research world.

“This is what is really new in terms of the story that can be told by crowd-sourcing,” said Lucas Dixon, social media research fellow at University of Edinburgh. “It can give you the overview picture, it can connect the dots, it can then inform you in ways that weren’t possible before.”