News Release

Smartphone evidence on human rights abuse in the age of deepfakes

Award for new project to examine impact on trust

Grant and Award Announcement

Swansea University

Smartphone evidence in the age of deepfakes

image: Two protestors - one with a camera - in front of a police line at a Paris demonstration. A new Swansea University research project will examine the impact of deepfakes - artificially-manipulated videos, images and audio - on trust in evidence of human rights violations that is gathered by users. view more 

Credit: Koshu Kunii

A Swansea law expert has been awarded €1.5 million to examine how public perceptions of deepfakes – AI-manipulated images, videos or audio – affect trust in user-generated evidence of human rights violations.

Yvonne McDermott Rees, Professor of Law at the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law, has been awarded a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant.  The grant was one of the latest round of awards that form part of Horizon Europe, the EU’s research and innovation programme.  Over 4000 applications were received from across the EU and associated countries, with fewer than one in ten being successful. 


User-generated evidence - such as videos recorded by witnesses on their mobile phones - plays an important role in legal trials worldwide. This kind of evidence has transformed our ways of knowing about mass human rights violations and holding perpetrators to account.  


Yet, at the same time, the public is increasingly confronted with examples of ‘deepfakes’ – extremely realistic images, videos, or audio recordings created using machine learning technology – which are only likely to become more advanced and difficult to detect as the technology progresses. 


Through an innovative methodology combining legal analysis of trials with mass online experiments and mock jury trials, Professor McDermott Rees's project, TRUE (TRust in User-generated Evidence), will develop the first systematic account of trust in user-generated evidence, in the specific context of its use in human rights accountability processes.  


TRUE will run from 2022-2027, enabling it to track the impact of advances in technology over time. 

Professor Yvonne McDermott Rees of Swansea University said: 


"Scholarship to date has expressed a concern that the rise in deepfakes will lead to mass mistrust in user-generated evidence, and that this in turn will decrease its usefulness in legal proceedings. This may well be the case, but no study has yet tested that assumption.  


I am so pleased that the ERC has chosen to generously support TRUE in tackling a major evidence gap that urgently needs to be addressed, and I am looking forward to commencing this important research together with a dedicated research team." 


Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said:  


“With this very first round of long-awaited grants, I am glad to see the European Research Council remaining a flagship for excellent and curiosity-driven science under the Horizon Europe programme. I am looking forward to seeing what new breakthroughs and opportunities the new ERC laureates will bring, and how they will inspire young people to follow their curiosity and make discoveries for the benefit of us all.” 





Protestors, one with a camera, at a demonstration against a French security law; Paris December 2020. 


Photo credit: Koshu Kunii on Unsplash



Notes to Editors


About the ERC:  the ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It funds creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based across Europe. The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants. With its additional Proof of Concept Grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to bridge the gap between their pioneering research and early phases of its commercialisation.


The ERC is led by an independent governing body, the Scientific Council. Since 1 November 2021, Maria Leptin is the President of the ERC. The overall ERC budget from 2021 to 2027 is more than €16 billion, as part of the Horizon Europe programme, under the responsibility of the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel.


Swansea University is a world-class, research-led, dual campus university offering a first-class student experience and has one of the best employability rates of graduates in the UK. The University has the highest possible rating for teaching – the Gold rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in 2018 and was commended for its high proportions of students achieving consistently outstanding outcomes.


Swansea climbed 14 places to 31st in the Guardian University Guide 2019, making us Wales’ top ranked university, with one of the best success rates of graduates gaining employment in the UK and the same overall satisfaction level as the Number 1 ranked university.


The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 results saw Swansea make the ‘biggest leap among research-intensive institutions’ in the UK (Times Higher Education, December 2014) and achieved its ambition to be a top 30 research University, soaring up the league table to 26th in the UK.


The University is in the top 300 best universities in the world, ranked in the 251-300 group in The Times Higher Education World University rankings 2018.  Swansea University now has 23 main partners, awarding joint degrees and post-graduate qualifications.


The University was established in 1920 and was the first campus university in the UK. It currently offers around 350 undergraduate courses and 350 postgraduate courses to circa 20,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.  The University has ambitious expansion plans as it moves towards its centenary in 2020 and aims to continue to extend its global reach and realise its domestic and international potential.


Swansea University is a registered charity. No.1138342. Visit



For more information:


Kevin Sullivan, senior press officer, Swansea University


Follow us on Twitter:

Find us on Facebook:


Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.