Stage 2
19:45 - 20:45
Social Media and Conflict: How to mitigate online hate speech that fuels violence?


Since gaining independence in 2011 the Republic of South Sudan has become embroiled in a protracted civil conflict claiming thousands of lives and displacing over a million people. When violent clashes between government and opposition forces erupted in the capital Juba on the eve of its fifth anniversary in July 2016 the role played by social media in stoking violence, fear and ethnic hatred came to the fore.
Initiatives such as #defyhatenow, working with local communities to identify and mitigate social media hate speech, along with the surveying and monitoring of ethnic hate terminology by the Peace Tech Lab seek to create mechanisms to curb conflict rhetoric as urgent peace-building measures.


Focussing on incitement to violence as a catalyst for conflict, the session will discuss the ways in which online and offline groups interact to fuel a war in which most of the victims have little or no access to media or technology. How can research (such as the 'Lexicon of Hate Speech Terms') and social media monitoring of groups active globally, in concert with action on the ground in a conflict region be leveraged to create an early warning/early response scenario to prevent violent conflict?

If predictive analytics could be used, for example, to identify a term like MTN months before Dinka citizens were targeted on major roadways for violence (which Peace Tech Lab did) AND there actually had been a mechanism in place to feed this information to organizations that could do something about it, could lives have been saved? After claiming that they want to tackle the problem, are international organisations such as the UN or AU in a position to take operative action on the ground?

Working on improving the climate for constructive discourse and collaboration between affected parties, including displaced citizens, refugees and the international diaspora, teams of local social media correspondents, curators and activists are beginning to play a pioneering role in such an effort, charting new territory in social media peace-building. Are there lessons to be learned that can be adopted from the political interaction with social media hate speech and incitement from other conflicts in Africa, Europe and beyond? At a time when there is no political space for dialogue in countries such as South Sudan, the session seeks a lively interaction that can come up with new ideas and strategies on what people can actually do to curb the virulence of hate rhetoric, both locally on the ground and online.