Today there is a huge amount of information produced daily that can be a major source for discovering crimes against humanity, or even to prevent them. For example, the UN and other international organizations are developing complex data processing systems to test this type of crimes.
In an every day more connected world, abundant proliferation of all kinds of messages, through mobile telephony, Internet and particularly social networks provide an important source of knowledge. The processing of all this data can be an excellent complement to field investigations, especially when the latter becomes really dangerous in war zones.
Perhaps the best example is found in the civil war in Syria. Since its beginning in the spring of 2011, it has been very difficult to obtain information about the atrocities committed by the regime of Bashar al Assad or radical groups like the Islamic State exclusively by traditional methods.
Now, the use of Big Data has made possible Humanitarian Tracker, an organization that described as forum for citizens involved in humanitarian causes. This organization has launched the Syria Tracker project. This project, through the use of data analytics, aims to map the victims of the conflict in Syria since its early days until today. Syria Tracker combines the work of researchers verifying data published in news portals and social networks with volunteers on the ground that collect information from witnesses. According to Humanitarian Tracker’s own data, as per last year they had already worked with over 75,000 reports, 180,000 news and 80 million tweets.
All these data, once processed, is publicly available at this dashboard. It have documented more than 120,000 fatalities. In the same dashboard we can also find a detailed account of the location and cause of these deaths.
For example, in this article from Mashable on August 2014, we can observe the level of accuracy that Big Data can offer of this bloody conflict. Syria Tracker’s work has uncovered a large increase in the number of women victims of conflict than 1% of all deaths in the first month to 13% in early 2014. In addition, most of them were killed by snipers, which sadly implies a deliberate action to attack civilians.
Hopefully, this use of big data will become a powerful tool to bring protection to a population accustomed to suffer day after day the cruelty of a civil war.