AMNESTY DECODERS FAQ

All the answers to the most commonly asked questions relating to Amnesty Decoders

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About Amnesty Decoders

What is the Amnesty Decoders platform?

Amnesty Decoders is a platform where tens of thousands of digital volunteers around the world use their computers or phones to help our researchers sift through large databanks of social media messages, images, documents and other information.

Why are you doing this?

We aim to inspire a new generation of digital activists – people who are keen to contribute to human rights work in a meaningful way by using new technologies. We are also addressing the challenge of information overload – our researchers are overwhelmed by the dramatic expansion of digital information and we need all hands on deck to support them.

What have you achieved so far?

Since the launch of the Decoders platform in June 2016, we successfully completed five projects: helping Amnesty improve its Urgent Action campaigns, identifying villages at risk of attacks in remote areas of Darfur in Sudan, digitising a large databank of oil spill investigation reports and images in Nigeria, and finding misogyny and abuse in tweets sent to women.

How many Decoders are contributing and who are they?

Since the launch of the platform, we have had over 53,100 volunteers from 150 countries. Collectively, they contributed over 15,000 hours of work, which equates to one person working full time for eight years.

Decoders are from all walks of life, from young people keen to use the power of technology to make a difference, to people in their 70’s. They are altruistic, politically aware, engaged and passionate. All they need to participate is an internet connection – they get online training on the tasks and can spend anywhere from a few minutes to hours analysing data.

How can I become a Decoder?

Anyone can become a decoder, you don’t need previous knowledge or special equipment. All you need is a computer, tablet or phone with an internet connection. You don’t need to download any apps, just complete tasks on our website.

There is no minimum time requirement needed; do as much or as little as you'd like.

What happens to the data I submit?

Your analysis of documents, satellite images, videos or other potential evidence of human rights violations is used by our researchers to advance human rights work.

What is the discussion forum?

Once you have completed a task, you can flag it and discuss it with other decoders or Amnesty researchers. The comments or questions will appear on the Discuss forum (also accessible via the navigation bar). You can also see discussion threads other decoders have started, and contribute to the conversation. Due to the large number of discussions, we rely on volunteers to help answering questions – please be mindful of that, minimize the number of questions and support our volunteer moderators.

How can I get more involved in Decoders?

In addition to completing tasks, volunteers can support others and join discussions with the community on the discussion forum. We also need support moderating the forum. As moderator, you will support the Amnesty team make sure that questions from other fellow volunteers are answered in time. You will be in touch with Amnesty researchers and campaigners and act as a point of contact for the project. If you are interested in becoming a moderator, email us here.

Registration and your Data

What data do you collect about me?

When registering with Amnesty Decoders, you will be asked some personal information including a unique username, your email address, and country of origin. We will use this information to notify you about new Amnesty Decoders projects (should you subscribe to this feature).

We may also collect anonymised technical information, including the Internet protocol (IP) address used to connect your computer to the Internet, browser type and version, time zone setting, browser plug-in types and versions, operating system and platform. This anonymised data is collected to administer our site and for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research, statistical and survey purposes and to improve our site to ensure that content is presented in the most effective manner for you and your computer. Please refer to our Terms page and Privacy Policy for more information about the data we collect and how we intend to use it.

Why am I asked to register?

We ask decoders to register on the platform with a name, username and email. Signing in allows you to participate in discussions, enabling us to give you credit for your work and helps the research teams make the best use of the data you provide.

We will use this information to notify you about new Amnesty Decoders projects (if you subscribe to this feature).

For some projects we require registration to lower the risk of malicious users, or to let Decoders gain recorded experience to unlock trickier tasks.

I care about digital security. Do you have any tips for staying safe on your platform?

You should always keep digital security in mind when signing up to a new website like Amnesty Decoders. These are our top tips that will go a little way towards making things safer online:

  • Use a new, different, password for this site. Reusing the same password across lots of sites means that only one of those sites has to get hacked to put your digital identity as risk.
  • Most people find ‘passphrases’ easier to remember than passwords – this comic https://xkcd.com/936/ shows a good approach to picking passphrases that are both strong and easy to remember.
  • Be careful of links/attachments that are shared in the discussion forum – check the destination before you click. Reach out to a moderator if you see something suspicious posted.
  • Keep your computer or mobile up to date. Install operating system and application updates when prompted, particularly for things like Adobe Flash and Java.

I forgot the email I used to sign up, can I retrieve it?

Don’t worry if you forgot your password - we have your back. Go to the sign in page and click on the “Forgot password” option. Follow the steps indicated to retrieve your password or login information.

How can I find out what information you have about me?

Amnesty International are committed to protecting and respecting your privacy. For the purpose of the Data Protection Act 1998 the data controller is Amnesty International Limited of 1 Easton Street, London, WC1X 0DW, United Kingdom. You can also contact us by email:

amnestyis@amnesty.org or by telephone: + 44 (0) 20 7413 5500.

Please write to us at this address to access information we hold about you.

Can I delete my account?

If you wish to delete your Amnesty Decoders account, you can email us here and we will respond with instructions or confirmation of the account deletion.

I want to know more, how can I contact you?

We are happy to answer whatever question you might have. Please feel free to contact us by emailing us here.

Project FAQs

Strike Tracker FAQs

What is the current project?

The current project is Strike Tracker - an effort to identify the timeline of damage in Raqqa, Syria, during the course of the coalition military operation there between June-October 2017. With your help, we can use historical satellite imagery to identify the timeframe of damage at different buildings, and provide evidence for coalition links with civilian casualties, strengthening the case for reparations.

What are the objectives of the Strike Tracker project?

We want to complement our recent research based on interviews and on-the-ground data collection with broader information from the city - it is estimated that 70-80% of Raqqa was damaged in the 2017 operation. We have used publicly available damage estimates from the UN organisation UNOSAT to identify building damage during 2017 - but we need your help to narrow down the timing of damage to buildings more exactly, using a series of satellite images over Raqqa taken across the whole time period.

Your contribution will pinpoint the time window when buildings or features were damaged, getting us from eight months down to as little as a week or a few days. This vital evidence of strikes on the city will be linked with our research and interviews with casualties, and social media, to help build up a picture of impacts on Raqqa and when they occurred. The coalition first claimed that no civilian casualties occurred during their strikes. This evidence will be used to link coalition strikes with civilian impacts, and help smooth the path for obtaining reparations for the survivors and the relatives of those killed.

How many volunteers do you need for Strike Tracker?

Over 10,000 buildings in Raqqa have been identified as damaged between February and October 2017, and we need many people’s eyes on each one - this is one of our toughest projects yet, with the depth of satellite imagery to look through for each case. We are looking for thousands of volunteers to take part - why not get friends and family on board?

Where can I learn more?

Interested in finding out more about what happened in Raqqa and what Amnesty International is doing?

Where can I get help for Strike Tracker?

There’s a help link on the project page that you’ll always have access to to check instructions and examples. If you’re not certain about anything in a task, you can flag it and discuss it with other decoders or Amnesty researchers on the Discussion forum. Due to the large number of discussions, we rely on volunteers to help answering each other’s questions – so you may not get everything answered straight away. If you can contribute to help other decoders, or just want to say hi and join the general discussion, please do - we’re a friendly bunch!

There’s also a short video showing what to do, which you can also access from the Help menu.

What if I’m not sure what the answer is?

Analysing satellite data is hard and it can be tough to see when damage happened to a feature, especially if it’s a small building or there are obscuring shadows or changes in satellite angle from image to image. It’s really important, though, that you give it your “best guess” for the feature you’re looking at, as the more input we have the stronger our data will be about the damage timelines in Raqqa. This will be the first time that people have looked closely at these images across all the features, so Decoders are building up a powerful new set of data.

What if I make a mistake?

Each building or other feature will be shown to a number of different volunteers around the world; the damage time-frame is set when most people agree on the answer. So don’t worry, we rely on the power of many Decoders to get a strong answer for the questions - we know mistakes happen!

What happens next?

After we have enough results from our Decoders project, the data will be analysed and incorporated into the wider research Amnesty International is doing on Raqqa to get justice for civilians. We’ll update the project Results page with anything new, and if you’ve opted in to emails you’ll also hear about updates from this project - as well as new Decoders volunteering opportunities in the future!

We’re also investigating using the Decoders results to help train machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence systems - what you are doing for Raqqa could ultimately help people around the world by identifying damaged buildings more quickly (for instance after an earthquake).