PeaceTech Lab In The Media
Public Radio International
South Sudan became the world’s newest country in 2011. But since breaking from Sudan, it’s been riven by its own internal conflicts between clan groups, minor warlords and government factions.
Earlier this month, the United Nations World Food Program discovered three of its workers were killed there. The violence has gotten so bad that a senior British official has made the rare move by a foreign government of calling it outright tribal “genocide.”
Meanwhile, internet monitors are watching very closely. Online hate speech and fake news posts seem to be inciting some of the real world violence, according to researchers and activists.
“There’s a huge potential for genocide using the mechanism of social media to drive the conflict,” says Stephen Kovats, a founder of #DefyHateNow, a nonprofit working to counter online hate speech in South Sudan.
In South Sudan, “inflammatory rhetoric, stereotyping and name calling have been accompanied by targeted killings and rape of members of particular ethnic groups, and by violent attacks against individuals or communities on the basis of their perceived political affiliation,” says a November report by Adama Dieng, the United Nations special adviser on the prevention of genocide. “The media, including social media, are being used to spread hatred and encourage ethnic polarization.”
The PeaceTech Camp (PTXIraq), organized by the Sanad Foundation for Peacebuilding in Iraq, was concluded in Basra on Friday with the participation of more than 30 civil society organizations and five days of activity at the Basra International Hotel Hall.
"Peace Camp PTXIraq, in which more than 30 civil society organizations took part, included the training of participants on eight important techniques related to data documentation, interactive maps and the best use of platforms, community outreach, and industry," said Firas Al-Abbasi. "Press can record stories using smart phones, and implement programs related to integrity and transparency using those technologies. "
Social Media fuels war in a country on the brink of genocide.
The Lexicon is the first to identify the terms used to incite violence.
There are words that kill. In the case of South Sudan, social media has emerged as a new source of ethno-political conflict. According to the United Nations and international experts, South Sudan is at the brink of genocide and has been plagued with famine throughout the region this year. Ethnic conflict has erupted since December 2013 amongst parties that are aligned with President Salva Kiir of the Dinka tribe, against those aligned with Former Vice President Riek Machar, of the Nuer tribe. Although South Sudan is among the world’s least developed countries and about 70% of its population is illiterate, hate speech and fake news disseminates through the internet and spreads violence to regions that don’t even have electricity. Local and international organizations have responded to the gravity of situation through their work. One result of this collective effort is the Lexicon of Hate Speech Terms which is the first of its kind to identify the vocabulary used to incite violence of social media.
“Until now, we only searched for words like kill, Dinka and Nuer to identify hate speech in social media. Now we can turn to new vocabulary and hashtags and follow their path from the diaspora to South Sudan,” explains Theo Dolan, the Director of PeaceTech Lab Africa and spokesperson for the lexicon. This NGO supported by the United States Institute of Peace has an office in Nairobi (Kenya) and has worked with South Sudanese in-country and in different parts of the world to define each expression, place it into social and political context, and suggest respectful alternatives. The project has three objectives: help organizations that fight hate speech identify terms and counter them; spread awareness amongst social media users about the danger of provocative language; and to promote the use of neutral words that allow the South Sudanese to express their frustration without undermining the dialogue. Based on this lexicon, PeaceTech Lab has released maps showing the common platforms used to spread hate speech, the influential users that incite conflict, and visualizations to track the use of provocative language on social media. These resources are accessible to international organizations to help with decision making. “Understanding and mapping hate speech helps us predict and alert on potential violence,” adds Dolan.
GLOBAL PARTNERSHIPS WEEK SUMMIT 2017
“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.” -Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is a visionary mission for global development—one that requires the immediate efforts of governments, NGOs, and businesses to bridge the capacity gap and achieve scale.
But how does one even begin to plan for 2030? Especially at a time when it seems impossible to anticipate what lies ahead in upcoming days and weeks, let alone years.
Recognizing the need to both “dream big” and act with urgency, the Global Partnerships Week on SDG Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals will examine what leaders across the public-private spectrum can do now to promote the spirit of innovation and technical ability needed to fulfill the mission outlined by the United Nations.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The New Season of the Popular Radio Drama for Youth Promotes Peace amidst Violent Conflict
FEBRUARY 2, 2017, JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN- Sawa Shabab (Together Youth), a peacebuilding
radio drama produced locally by Ammalna in partnership with PeaceTech Lab and the United States Institute of Peace, returns this week for Season 3 on Radio Miraya, Catholic Radio Network, and Internews community radio stations, among other local stations. The season premiere comes at a critical time, as reemerging violence, dire economic conditions and increasing displacement threaten to upend the world’s newest nation.
“Youth are bearing the brunt of the conflict right now, much of which is being inflamed by online hate speech. Sawa Shabab gives them space to wrestle with issues like unity and identity, while still expressing a positive vision for their country. We’ve been amazed by the response through SMS, social media, and community groups forming around the show’s key themes,” said PeaceTech Lab Africa Director, Theo Dolan.
For Immediate Release
C5, PeaceTech Lab and Amazon Web Services will employ a mentoring programme and cloud computing to scale up companies and organisations creating technology for use in conflict zones
Washington, D.C. 19 December, 2016 – C5 Capital Limited (C5), the London-headquartered technology investment specialist focused on investing in cloud, cyber and big data today announced that it is now accepting applications from startups and not-for-profits working in peacetech for its new Washington DC-based scalerator, powered by Amazon Web Services (“AWS”) in partnership with PeaceTech Lab. This is the first major international peacetech program powered by cloud innovation and dedicated to scaling start-ups around the world.
Francis first heard an episode of Sawa Shabab (Together Youth), the peace building radio drama, in 2014 when he was studying at the university in Wau, in Western Bahr el Ghazal.
The drama resonated with him. It was highly entertaining and presented the lives of South Sudanese youth he could identify with. Following the political violence that erupted in December 2013, he recognised that the programme was also about youth who were taking responsibility to resolve conflict themselves within their own communities.
Francis didn’t simply listen, he responded to the question posed to the audience at the end of the show by calling in and having a conversation with the Sawa Shabab team. He also texted a message after the next episode and again the following week. He was hooked.
Nearly 150 people were killed in a bloody weekend of terror attacks across five countries, with churchgoers, children, market shoppers and football fans among those slaughtered.
The weekend of mayhem comes at the close of a bloody year in which more than 15,000 people have been killed in 1,683 separate terrorist attacks worldwide, according to data from the US-based monitoring group PeaceTech Lab. Civilians are increasingly the victims in wars that are playing out in streets and places of worship as much as on traditional battlefields.
UNMISS | UN MISSION IN SOUTH SUDAN
A team of researchers from the PeaceTech Lab Africa, created by the United States institute of Peace – USIP, are undertaking research into the impact of online hate speech and how social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube have been used to generate and incite hatred.
The research stems from concerns that “countries with rapidly expanding Internet access, such as South Sudan, are also experiencing the spread of online rumors, misinformation, and targeted attacks to exploit political or ethnic differences,” says Theo Dolan, the Director of Peace Tech Lab Africa.
“A lot of online hate speech disseminated by the diaspora communities through platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and whatsapp, is captured by the social media users”.
Speaking to Radio Miraya Breakfast show, Dolan stressed that online hate speech spread through personal and family networks, and it spreads fast – information can flow very quickly from a diaspora community in Australia to the US and back to South Sudan.
A lexicon is being generated from this research, and Dolan hopes it will serve as a useful resource for people and organizations involved in monitoring and countering hate speech.
“With more contexts around why these terms are inflammatory, people will have a better idea of how to combat the problem’, Dolan believes.
“The resulting hate speech lexicon will be plugged into software tools to map online influencers and track the historic uses of key inflammatory terms,” Dolan explained.
THE WASHINGTON POST
Egypt’s 2011 uprising has become synonymous with the successful use of social media to overthrow an entrenched authoritarian regime. Popular and academic literature hold it up as the paradigm of social media’s effects on contentious politics. Activists from Bahrain and Turkey to Ukraine and St. Louis learned and applied Egyptian protest tactics such as setting up encampments in public space, preparing ways to resist police attacks, organizing protest locations and times on Facebook groups, and rapidly disseminating videos and images of protests to mass media.
But it is equally significant that Egypt’s attempted transition to democracy after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak ended in violent political polarization and a military coup. Did social media also contribute to the failure of democratic consolidation? What does this mean for future attempts at democratic transition, given that they will probably unfold in heavily socially mediated societies, too? In a new report in the Blogs and Bullets series for PeaceTech Lab, we use unique Twitter and Facebook data to explore how social media contributed to the spread of polarization and fear in Egypt that undermined its transition.
Washington, DC – The PeaceTech Lab and Nigeria-based Channels TV have agreed to pursue joint initiatives using media in combination with data and technology to foster long-term peace and prosperity in northern Nigeria and the surrounding region. The agreement’s implementation will begin immediately with the joint development of Nigeria’s first, independent Hausa-language television news network to serve northern Nigeria.
“The PeaceTech Lab and Channels TV believe media can prompt and accelerate peacebuilding in an environment of intensified terrorist activity carried out by extremists who threaten Nigeria’s political stability and social compact with the Nigerian people,” said Sheldon Himelfarb, CEO of PeaceTech Lab. “The Lab welcomes Channels as a partner in our expanding media practice.”
John Momoh, founder and CEO of Channels TV, added, “Channels is very pleased to be associated with the PeaceTech Lab. We value its commitment and sophisticated approach to conflict resolution. We also welcome its development support as we seek to make our new Hausa service a sustainable business.”
It's official: Twitter is lifesaving.
A new study in the journal Science Advances, finds that social media can provide a potential path to safety and security during a crisis. Researchers looking back at Hurricane Sandy of 2012 detail how 52 million geographically pinpointed tweets gathered from before, during and after the hurricane offered data on where the weather event ultimately caused the most damage. Big data was useful for scientists in figuring out that the areas that experienced the most notable spike in Twitter activity were associated with areas where residents filed the most insurance claims and received the most individual assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency grants. Crunching numbers was made exponentially faster and easier by technology.
Social media and information technology are taking up vital positions in the tool box of preventive actions and post-crisis response approaches in all kinds of events, domestically, and overseas. During earthquakes, from Haiti to South Asia, social media has helped track down victims and locate survivors under deep rubble. Predictive analysis is also being used to determine where fault lines exist as well as weather patterns. Twitter and Facebook are using emergency alerts to warn citizens and connect those in need of assistance when danger strikes.
Imagine refugees stranded along dangerous routes in and out of countries. They rely on mobile phone, and increasingly social media, to get life-saving information on where it is safe to travel.
Victims of domestic violence are able to utilize apps and other technologies to report abuse without having to show up at a police station or clinic.
And those who live and work in isolated parts of the world, particularly in the agricultural sector, are using social media to glean insights into everything from climate to costs for products and services.
Health care is increasingly improved by access to pharmaceutical information online.
We often wring our hands at the intrusion of social media into our lives. But for those impacted by natural disasters, conflict, or crisis, that iPad, or keypad, cell phone or mobile app may become opportunities not disadvantages.
So celebrate technology. It may just save your life.
Tara Sonenshine is former under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. She serves on the board of directors of Peace Tech Lab which uses technology to prevent and respond to global conflict.
All they are saying is give peace tech a chance
As I learned at a conference on scaling peace technology at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC last month, the romantic notion that we can build a better world through data isn't over, after all.
Researchers hope that new technologies can detect the signs of conflicts earlier than ever before, but governments and non-governmental organizations are still figuring out how to move from theory to practice.
While our relationship to data has become more complicated since big data became a buzzword at the end of the last decade, hope endures that the wonders of our technology-infused age can be used to give policy makers more insight into the future and evidence to act in the present. Some government-funded researchsuggests that Twitter data can be used to predict when protests will erupt.
In the IT practice at CEB, we talk a great deal about how technology is changing the business environment: timelines are faster, available information is exponentially greater, and opportunities to connect and collaborate abound. But this phenomenon is not limited to the business world; technology has greatly changed how conflicts are waged, studied, and—most importantly—resolved or prevented.
An exciting organization working in this space of conflict resolution and technology is PeaceTech Lab, an off-shoot of the US Institute of Peace. PeaceTech Lab’s stated mission is to work at the intersection of technology, media, and data to help reduce violent conflict around the world. It’s a relatively new organization experiencing rapid growth. So when it approached CEB about partnering to scale its impact, CEB in the Community got right to work setting up the best pro bono project to align PeaceTech’s needs with CEB’s strengths.
This week, NDI launched its new Arabic-language e-learning and training platformTaalamSharek.org, or“learn-engage” in English. Redesigned with support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), this platform, which is also designed to be used on mobile phones, represents a new era in online engagement with and among democracy advocates in the Middle East and North Africa. The platform allows citizens to build their civic and political skills on topics such as campaign planning, elections, citizen participation, governance, and political party development.
Can Your Playstation Stop A War?
Video games are being used for everything from helping find cures for HIV to losing weight. It's time to start using them to make peace.
Whether it is Hezbollah creating games to allow players to digitally participate in the 2006 war with Israel, Islamic State supporters modifying Grand Theft Auto, or even the U.S. military recruiting youth with America’s Army, games are already being employed to allow their audience to participate in a conflict. And if they can be harnessed to serve war, games should and must be used to power peace.
Big data's big role in humanitarian aid
Mission-based organizations, including those helping the recent wave of Syrian refugees, are using big data to improve their response efforts. "Big data can be used to identify patterns and signatures associated with conflict — and those associated with peace — presenting huge opportunities for better-informed efforts to prevent violence and conflict."
Such work is still in the nascent stages, Noel Dickover says, but people are excited about its potential. "We have unprecedented amounts of data on human sentiment, and we know there's value there," he says. "The question is how to connect it."
Dickover is working on ways to do just that. One example is the Open Situation Room Exchange (OSRx) project, which aims to "empower greater collective impact in preventing or mitigating serious violent conflicts in particular arenas through collaboration and data-sharing."
Challenge contests and prize competitions lead to better, cheaper technology
At Thursday's PeaceTech Summit in Washington, D.C., Ann Mei Chang, the executive director of the U.S. Agency for International Development's Global Development Lab, and Jason Mathey, the director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, said federal challenges and prize competitions often unlock innovations that are rare in traditional federal contracting - and cheaper.