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224 sec. 001 - Conducting Open Source Investigations (Fall 2024)

Instructor: David Barstow  
Instructor: Alexa Koenig  (view instructor's teaching evaluations - degree students only | profile)
View all teaching evaluations for this course - degree students only

Units: 4
Grading Designation: Graded
Mode of Instruction: In-Person


TuTh 3:35 PM - 5:25 PM
Location: 2224 Piedmont 12
From August 20, 2024
To November 21, 2024

Course Start: August 20, 2024
Course End: November 21, 2024

Enrollment info:
Enrolled: 6
Waitlisted: 0
Enroll Limit: 10
As of: 07/19 08:03 PM

This course will introduce law students to the fundamentals of conducting open source investigations: investigations that use social media and other publicly-accessible internet-based sources to develop evidence for courts. Students will use legal, reporting and digital research methods to investigate a series of human rights issues for real-world partners. The outputs will include a series of audio, written and/or visual pieces. The investigation and publishing material will be designed to bring broad attention to environmental destruction, human rights violations and/or other violations of international, regional and domestic law. Students will learn the following skills: beginning and intermediary digital research and investigation methods, including advanced Boolean searching, social media discovery and analysis, site domain and filetype searching, and deep web mining; verification techniques for digital materials (including photographs, videos, and printed documents); introductory geospatial and network analysis; traditional investigative methods, including interviewing and other offline investigative techniques; relevant ethical considerations; holistic security (including physical, digital and psychosocial risks and mitigating techniques); cross-disciplinary communication and collaboration; the collection and analysis of large datasets; how to work effectively in multidisciplinary teams; and relevant legal frameworks, including an introduction to human rights, humanitarian and international criminal law. Students will also learn the history of digital open source investigations, including their use in legal and journalism practice, and how such investigations are transforming the communication of facts in media and courts. Students will work with award-winning faculty and staff from Berkeley Law's Human Rights Center and faculty from Berkeley Journalism's Investigative Reporting Program. Each class will include a “Seminar Class” with skill building including open-source investigation methods (OSINT), and a “Lab” for collaborative research and trouble-shooting with the team and instructors. In addition, students will be expected to read all assigned materials and work independently on their research. To apply, please reach out to Alexa Koenig at for a link to the class application. The application will be due on April 15, 2024. Students will be informed if they have permission to enroll within 1-2 weeks of the deadline.

Alexa Koenig, Ph.D., J.D., is co-Faculty Director of the Human Rights Center (winner of the 2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions) and a Research Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law, where she teaches classes on human rights and international criminal law. She co-founded and directs Berkeley Law's Investigations Lab and trains legal, journalistic and human rights investigators around the world in digital open-source investigation methods. She helped establish and co-directs the Technology Advisory Board for the International Criminal Court's Office of the Prosecutor; formerly co-chaired the International Bar Association's Human Rights Law Committee; and is on the advisory board of numerous human rights organizations, including Physicians for Human Rights and the Innovation Lab at Human Rights First. She is the author of numerous books, has won multiple awards for her work, and has been honored by Harvard Law School's Women's Law Association as a Woman Inspiring Change.

David Barstow is chair of the Investigative Reporting Program at Berkeley Journalism. He is the first reporter in American history to win four Pulitzer Prizes. Prior to coming to Berkeley, he worked for 20 years with the investigative unit at the New York Times. Mr. Barstow is also the recipient of four Polk Awards, the Goldsmith Prize, the Alfred I. duPont Silver Baton, the Barlett and Steele Gold Medal, a Loeb Award, the Sidney Hillman Award, the Daniel Pearl Award for Investigative Reporting, two Sigma Delta Chi awards for distinguished service, the Peabody Award, the IRE Award, the Mirror Award, an Overseas Press Club Citation, two SABEW awards and the Gold Keyboard. In 2019 Mr. Barstow became the Reva and David Logan Distinguished Chair in Investigative Journalism at Berkeley Journalism, where he leads a storied program founded by Lowell Bergman dedicated to grooming future generations of investigative reporters by enlisting them in ambitious investigative projects. In his first three years at Berkeley, Barstow’s students have been published more than 150 times.

Guest lecturer Gisela Pérez de Acha is a supervising reporter and instructor who oversees teams of student investigators and journalists through Berkeley Law's Human Rights Center and Berkeley Journalism's Investigative Reporting Program. She is also a human rights lawyer and digital investigations trainer for the Human Rights Center and Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps, a global network of volunteers who fact-check social media posts about war crimes and human rights violations. She trains journalists and other professionals on methods for open source investigations, cybersecurity, and resiliency. Gisela is part of an Emmy award-winning team at the New York Times for her collaboration on the story about The Siege of Culiacán and a digital safety trainer with PEN America. She reported on extremism for "American Insurrection," a co-publication with ProPublica, Frontline, and the UC Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program, which won the George Polk Award in 2022. Born and raised in Mexico, Gisela speaks fluent Spanish, English, French, and Portuguese. She has a master’s degree from Berkeley Journalism.

Requirements Satisfaction:

Units from this class count towards the J.D. Experiential Requirement.

Exam Notes: (None) Class requires a series of papers, assignments, or presentations throughout the semester
Course Category: International and Comparative Law
This course is listed in the following sub-categories:
Social Justice and Public Interest

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