The contours of human rights advocacy: Evidence from over 120,000 press releases issued by human rights organizations, 1996-2018
Have human rights improved across the globe? The answer to this fundamental question has considerable consequences for international and domestic policy and for how we understand the world around us. In this paper, we demonstrate why prior efforts to address this question provide biased answers. We then introduce a unique corpus of over 120,000 press releases from 10 international human rights organizations (HROs) that covers the years 1996-2018. Next, we employ automatic text analysis tools and Bayesian change point models to provide new descriptive evidence that HROs have gradually shifted their focus from violations of physical integrity rights to infractions of women’s rights and immigrant rights. Finally, we argue that this trend is driven more by changes in how regimes control their citizens than by HROs’ strategies of public engagement. Our results have important implications for the literatures on social control, human rights, and repression.