By way of minor prologue: I knew Will Moore for just shy of 20 years. I knew him as a professor and mentor. I knew him as a Ph.D. dissertation adviser and a collaborator. And I knew him as a close friend. For much of the last 20 years, when writing anything — a blog post, an academic paper, a press release — Will would loom in my mind as an audience, sometimes intrusively. In that place, he prompted thousands of keystrokes (disproportionately backspace), always to the benefit of clarity, precision, and efficiency.
But he will not read this, and I cannot manage — though I’ve tried — to pretend that he will. It is for that reason — more so than any sense of grief or lack of time and space — that it has taken me 2 weeks to formulate the simple and understated words below. He’d hate it.
I write them on behalf of a grateful Amnesty International and, ultimately, a grateful human rights movement.
This month, the human rights community lost a friend and scholar with the passing of Professor Will Moore.
As a scholar, Will made immense contributions to the study of political violence and to that which was once treated as an epiphenomenon of politics and conflict: forced displacement and human rights. In the study of repression and human rights, Will and his growing cadre of students and colleagues made important progress into the study of compliance and abuse, especially related to torture and ill-treatment. He contributed to the study of human rights actors, be they the state, dissenters, or even human rights organizations, with important implications for the work of securing dignity and protection for persons, everywhere.
His scholarly work was read in Amnesty International, and I suspect elsewhere in the human rights (practice) community. It informed thinking, strategy, and encouraged self-reflection. And in no small part as a result of his efforts, the important work of rigorous, scientific examination of human rights dynamics will continue. A new generation of political scientists, un-tethered from constraints of geo-political primacy in the academy, will produce knowledge that can make a better world — if we so choose it.
As a result of Amnesty International’s outsized role in producing human rights data, Will sought to know and understand the organization. And in the process — beyond the important work of creating generalized knowledge about repression — he became a friend of Amnesty International.
Will launched the Citizen Media Evidence Partnership (CMEP) while at Florida State University, a joint project with Amnesty. The Citizen Media Evidence Partnership ultimately became the Digital Verification Corp, a now-global network of colleges and universities that are uncovering and verifying human rights abuses as they unfold, ensuring that human rights struggles are not lost in a digital sea.
In this relationship with Amnesty, he tirelessly sought to create a model for the production of human rights events data, based on the changing information landscape to which human rights monitors were struggling to adjust. And while that sounds like an academic enterprise, it was not. It was an intensive endeavor with no peer-reviewed publications waiting at the end. No NSF grants to be had. It was an endeavor he pursued as a friend of Amnesty International, and as a friend of the human rights struggle itself.
I speak for Amnesty International when I express sorrow for Will’s loss, most profoundly for his family, and — widely — for our collective loss in the human rights movement. He will be missed, and we will be reminded of this loss often.