The Human Rights Lens addresses how not all civic practices progress democracy and how language and sources can be used as a tool to provide cultural and historical context to progress a more inclusionary approach.
Problems and Purpose
The Human Rights Lens is a method of researching and reporting democratic practices with the purpose of eliminating exclusionary impulses and preventing harmful language. “Exclusionary impulses” stipulates that a group or individual is facing reputational damage based on language that is unverifiable and spreads misinformation. The human rights lens was originated to apply to crowdsourcing editorial policies and provide a guide to navigate and identify cases and entries that demonstrate exclusionary impulses. Participedia’s platform is an example of how to make distinctions and explain what is and is not censorship with a framework that celebrates advances of democracy and acknowledges and informs context based challenges that do not progress democracy. The human rights lens framework intends to contribute to enhancing participatory inclusion using language and sources that improve upon a universal human rights framework and refrains from removing and restricting crowdsourcing.
The problem the human rights lens aims to address are case entries that lean towards exclusionary impulses with intentional harmful language. While a digital platform is unable to assess intent in case entities from crowdsourcing, the human rights framework considers the circumstances and cultural conflict that provide context. This is addressed through editorial policies that can adhere to a human rights framework and assess apparent exclusionary cases.
The objective of the human rights lens is to provide a tangible reference for how to adhere to a human rights framework when producing crowdsource based content on democratic innovations. Its intent is not to assume the intent of the author but provide assisted language and sources that can distinguish between cases that are promoting democratic practices and those that hinder innovation through exclusionary impulses.
Origins and Development
The human rights lens was developed by the Human & Political Rights Cluster of Participedia, one of the six research clusters. The Human & Political Rights Cluster addresses how rights are not secure and equal in many developing countries, and even developed institutions have infrastructures that don’t support marginalized groups sufficiently. The research cluster provides an analysis and supporting language on innovations that support democracy and democratization. The cluster introduced a human rights lens to inform its own platform on Participedia to address cases that involve bias and identify cases that should be revised for harmful language that excludes a group or individual.
Although the research cluster initially intended the human rights lens to be applied to its own editorial policy, the human rights lens addressed crowdsourcing information policy that can be applied abroad. Its scope is not limited to its own research expertise but can be expanded to other research clusters and democratic crowdsourcing to promote inclusionary language. The human rights lens has developed from a tool to control visibility of exclusionary cases, to a reference tool that refrains from restricted visibility and focuses on revisionary efforts.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The human rights lens adheres to advancing knowledge mobilization and stories of democratic innovation globally. It does this through crowdsourcing that has been vital in providing cases that are contributed and reviewed with transparency and integrity. The integrity of cases is what distinguishes how cases are selected to be reviewed by a human rights lens. “Although committed to democratic ideals, Participedia does not advance any ideological, programmatic, institutional, or government agenda. We believe that there are many ways to advance democracy, and that they will differ by place, history, culture, and context-based challenges.”  Using the example of Participedia’s mission statement, the human rights lens aims to acknowledge that not all crowdsourcing can advance democracy, however a focus on intentional language can determine the integrity of a case and attempt to remove bias.
The language the method derives from are from two examples, one based on the topic of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) and the other on global platforms. The collection on TRCs is an example of how cultural values are crucial in providing context to the intent of democratic practices.  One of the questions raised when analyzing TRC’s was, how should language and rhetoric that Participedia utilizes in its Truth and Reconciliation Commission collection inform a wider human rights approach? The human rights lens then developed that even TRCs democratic spaces can restrict individual voices to advance a collective agenda. This introduces the distinction between state building compared to the protection of victims. One of the distinctions the human rights lens reviews is whether a case is emphasizing cultural values of an institution or an individual building their own state and whether that can become overly-bureaucratic. Similarly, the topic of global platforms also discusses the responsibility a human rights lens has to address accountability. When democratic practices are inherently exclusionary, who is accountable for revising its intent? Platform governance is the framework that highlights how editorial policies shape human rights frameworks.  By creating a distinction between what is and is not censorship, the human rights lens defines the difference between freedom of expression and intention to harm another group, which is the distinction of exclusionary impulses.
How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making
Before revising a case that is flagged as exclusionary, it is important to acknowledge that not all organizations, methods, and cases are intent on promoting progressive views, but are providing historical and cultural context to reasons why systems have not been democratic. The preliminary process weighed the contributions of universal human rights frameworks and values compared to particularistic frameworks. Particularistic frameworks lead that “a political theory that each political group has a right to promote its own interests and especially independence without regard to the interests of larger groups.”  Considering this, the human rights lens tends to lean towards a universal human rights framework that references civic inclusion that does consider the effects on smaller or larger groups. Examples of universal human rights frameworks are frameworks and rights outlined by the United Nations that provide a normative approach to global issues and outline resolutions and recommendations to democratic norms and acknowledge that not all citizen-led efforts are democratic. 
Adhering to an editorial policy are the decision making efforts when deciding whether to revise a case for exclusionary impulses. If it is determined that a publication has misinformed an audience through bias, exclusionary language, and harmful intent, then the human rights lens considers “things like newsworthiness, the context and nature of the posted information, the likelihood and severity of actual or potential harms, and applicable laws”  Once it is determined that a case is not advancing democratic practices or informing on non-democratic practices based on context, the human rights lens then apples a universal human rights framework to apply sources and language that acknowledge groups and individuals who are harmed by its context.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The human rights lens intends to contribute to editorial policies for crowdsourcing that expect the following outcomes:
- To enhance participatory inclusion based on a universal human rights framework.
- To distinguish between freedom of speech and harmful intent
- To ensure that entries are inclusionary, and are only exclusionary with adequate context
Although Participedia is the exemplary platform in which the human rights lens is tangible and actively used, other platforms' editorial policies have also encountered issues with crowdsourcing where information should be verifiable and cited to ensure integrity. “Medium” is an example of a crowdsourcing platform that clearly outlines the parameters of its editorial policy and encourages debate amongst its contributors.. However, these debates on the platform have also recognized threats of violence and incitement; hateful content; harassment; privacy and reputational violations; and copyright and trademark infringement.  Considering that exclusionary impulses are not an outcome of one singular platform's editorial policy, but is a common result from rapid crowdsourcing, the human rights lens does not restrict crowdsourcing but rather restrict content that deliberately encourages hateful content.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The significance of the human rights lens is that it reviews the integrity of crowdsourcing while ensuring crowdsourcing is still accessible. Accessibility is the progressive mechanism that allows democratic practices to be shared rapidly with contrasting views and resources. It is important to facilitate exclusionary cases, but it is also important to refrain from deconstructing digital spaces that promote civil practices and debate.
The human rights lens is both a preemptive and preventive method. Inclusionary language and sources on universal human rights frameworks can be used a s guide when outlining democratic innovation cases, but is also preventive in reviewing exclusionary cases that are flagged as not advancing democracy by asking the following questions:
- How many times has it been reviewed and by whom?
- Are there design elements that confirm that it has been reviewed by a second reader?
- Is the language exclusionary of a group or individual, if yes, does it provide context?
- Does the case adhere to a particularistic or universal framework?
 Wallace, Jennifer and Bonny Ibhawoh, “Truth Commissions, Civic Participation and State Building,” in Bonny Ibhawoh, Sylvia Bawa and Jasper Ayelazuno eds. Truth Commissions and State Building (forthcoming)
 Taylor, Laura and Alexander Dukalskis. “Old Truths and New Politics: Does Truth Commission ‘Publicness’ Impact Democratization?” Journal of Peace Research 49, no. 5 (2012): 671–84.
 Robert Gorwa, “What is Platform Governance?” Information, Communication and Society 22, no. 6 (May 2019):854-871.
 Patrick L. Scully & Alice Diebel, "The essential and inherent democratic capacities of communities," Community Development (2015)