One of the questions I am asked most often about my work on the Syria mapping project at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is how we are able to conduct our research and documentation without being on the ground in country. How can we get detailed and unbiased information and corroborate 242 attacks on medical facilities and 615 deaths of medical personnel from afar?
The short answer is technology. The Syrian civil war has been the most widely followed conflict on social media. There is no shortage of activists, citizen journalists, and armed groups using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to capture events and spread information – or misinformation in some cases. Often, written posts are short and do not offer details – reporting only that a hospital has been “targeted” – but eyewitness photos and videos can fill in gaps by providing an “on-the-ground” view that would otherwise be impossible to get.