Pharos - Organization and Governance

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Pharos will be built around its core mission: to protect, enable and promote human rights media. The challenge will be to interpret the mission into clear principles, upon which the organization will be able to function deftly and responsibly.

It will have two bodies, the board of directors and the day-to-day team, to establish & to implement these principles. The first will be responsible for formulating a clear statement of Pharos' principles and, in difficult or changing circumstances, interpreting how they should be applied. The implementation team will oversee the functioning of the site, protect the security of the data, and manage relations with other content publishers and users.

Pharos's Organizational Chart

Alongside Pharos' formal organization, we envision a worldwide network that Pharos can promote active and appropriate submissions, as well as providing information to submitters about to do so securely. The network can also supply Pharos with the necessary contextual information to provide alongside the video. While Pharos does not want to reveal any information about the people in the video, it does want to provide information that will help explain where the event occurred, in what circumstances, and related to what underlying factors.

The Board of Directors

The Board of Directors will include a variety of professionals and experts with proven experience in human rights, freedom of expression, human security, and international relations. Like other mission driven organizations, we want to draw members from several different fields to ensure that the principles are written in a rich and thoughtful way. We envision some of the members may be human rights attorneys, former diplomats, professors, journalists, activists, and IT professionals.

Their initial task will be to draw up a clear mission statement and list of principles, upon which Pharos will accept, process, and distribute content. We envision that the mission statement will be 'To Promote Freedom of Expression and Protect Human Rights'. It should provide a clear, but general, vision of why Pharos exists. Ideally, these principles will be sufficient guidelines for how the operations will be carried out day to day. After its initial meetings, the board will only have to meet quarterly to review the operations of Pharos. But in case there are some submissions that are particularly difficult to evaluate, the Board should be on call for

The list of guiding principles will necessarily be more specific. These will determine which videos Pharos will process, publish, and distribute, and which it will not. Other organizations, like CNN's I-Reporter and Witness' The Hub, have formulated content policies that provide useful baselines for Pharos.

CNN I-Report's submission guidelines
The Hub's submission guidelines

We envision Pharos' list may be similar. It may contain prohibitions against which types of content will not be allowed, unless justifiable to the message -- like on the grounds of extreme violence, cruelty to animals, or explicit sexuality. But because of Pharos' concern for human rights abuses, it must expect that many legitimate videos may include violence, foul language, and sexuality in the context of abuse. The Board will draw up a general rule upon which legitimate versus illegitimate content can be distinguished. Their public guidelines about submissions may resemble CNN I-Report's -- general and user-friendly -- but privately they can hold detailed discussions about particular videos that may walk the line between appropriate and obscene.

In its guiding principles, the Board must also spell out how to approach videos that have been sent anonymously and cannot be verified. Pharos' general policy is that it will accept any content sent to it, and will only publish content related to human rights. The goal is to have a quick turn-around, so that all submissions, after being evaluated and scrubbed clean, will be posted and distributed immediately. Pharos can have a badge system (like CNN's I-Report) that declares whether the video has been verified as accurate and reliable by Pharos standards. A video without a badge will be understood as not necessarily real or trustworthy.

If the content arrives from an unknown source, Pharos must be concerned that it has been edited to misrepresent reality or is a lie outright. We recognize that there has been a history of forged abuses, including with videos of abuses that have been manufactured to give the appearance of an abuse when there has not been one. We are aware that competing groups, particularly in long-standing conflicts, use allegations of human rights abuse as tools to promote their political agenda, rather than strictly to protect human rights principles. We do not want to be drawn into such disputes, if it is possible. The Board, relying on its own knowledge and its network of contacts, will have to make the difficult calls whether to publish videos that are suspected of being edited or forged. Other human rights organizations must make similar determinations in whether to publish accounts of abuse, that may have been exaggerated or falsified. Pharos can borrow their insights into how to maker responsible choices on questionable content.

The Implementation Team

The Implementation Team will work according to the directives established by the Board. It will be responsible for ensuring the site operates smoothly, that the content is protected, and that it is distributed promptly and fully to the appropriate publishers. If Pharos hosts content on its own site, the team will ensure that the media is presented in a timely and usable manner.

The Tech team will be charged with matters of security and stability. Pharos may be besieged with videos at certain times (like, if there is a high-profile crisis going on) and it should be built not to crash during an intesnse spurt of activity. The site may also be subject to DDOS attacks, or other attempted take-downs. The tech team must devise a strategy -- whether it involves mirroring, hosting with a major company, or otherwise -- to insulate Pharos from such attacks. Pharos should be reliably available, particularly in the face of attacks from those actors who do not want a certain video to be seen, and during times of crisis when more users want to upload and to view human rights media.

Security of the content must also be a priority of the Tech Team. If Pharos retains unscrubbed versions of the content it receives -- the videos with distinguishing features still visible, or with metadata attached -- they must be protected from any posible intrusion. Pharos must be able to promise its uploaders that no one will ever be able to trace the video back to them. If Pharos keeps any logs of the videos have been submitted, like how they arrived or when they did, these logs should receive similarly high levels of security.

A Wider Network