How Do We Know & Trust What We See? Satellite Imagery in an Era of Global Crises, Surveillance, and Misinformation

At a time when we think everything can be made visible, how do we know what we see is true? What are the opportunities and limits of satellite imagery in helping us make sense of humanitarian crises, extreme climate events, and armed conflicts? On July 11th, 2024, Investigative journalists and open-source analysts who use satellite imagery will lead a conversation unpacking how they use satellite imagery to support their work, and a leading provider of commercial satellite imagery will reflect on the choices they make every day on what regions to image, who gets access to the images and gets to tell the story. 



The last ten years have seen astonishing developments in the production, availability and use of high-resolution images of the Earth from satellites, which are being operated by a growing number of commercial operators. Previously only available to some government agencies, satellite imagery is now a prominent feature in news coverage in print, on television, and online. These images are also increasingly used in academic research and investigations led by NGOs and international organizations to make sense of events on the ground and to monitor locations in unprecedented detail and often in near real-time. 

Satellite imagery has enabled more transparency and accountability in a globalized and networked world in allowing the public to monitor and make sense of ongoing conflicts, accidents, and natural disasters -- but there are important challenges and issues to consider as well: Who decides where the satellite should look? Who has access to this imagery? And why are we to trust what we see in these images?



Alison Killing will kick off the afternoon at 2.15 p.m. with a keynote. Killing won a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2021 and currently leads the visual investigations team at the Financial Times in London. Her remarks will be followed by a panel discussion with Anne Pellegrino (Planet Labs) and Jeffrey Lewis (Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey).

  • Alison Killing (Visual Investigations, Financial Times)
  • Anne Pellegrino (Media Programs, Planet Labs)
  • Jeffrey Lewis (Center for Nonproliferation Studies)

The discussion will be moderated by Henrietta Wilson (King’s College, London) und Alex Glaser (Princeton University)..

This event is jointly organized by Felix Biessmann, Rebecca Frank and Alex Glaser. Part of a project funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research (DSF).

RSVP as soon as possible by following the link at