PeaceTech Lab In The Media
Peace News Network
Kenya's past elections have been marred by violence, and with citizens heading to the polls on August 8, observers are concerned about the impact of hate speech. SMS text messages, in particular, have been blamed for partially fueling violence that led to 1,400 deaths following the 2007 election.
However, during this year's election, SMS messages are being used to try to diffuse tension, and social media is being used to monitor hate speech.
What is hate speech?
"The definition we use for hate speech is really the general definition, which is speech that attacks a person or group, on the basis of their race, their gender, their ethnic origin, their religion, or sexual orientation," said Giselle Lopez, from PeaceTech Lab, who has been researching the impact of hate speech and conflict in the region – including neighboring South Sudan.
"In the case of most of the work that we do there's another category of speech, called dangerous speech, which is speech that is very likely to lead to violence," Ms Lopez said.
It's looking for startups that want to use technology to assist communities in crisis.
Five months ago, when Amazon Web Services, C5 and the PeaceTech Labdebuted their inaugural cohort for the PeaceTech Accelerator, several misconceptions were stacked against the project.
Perception topped the list, according to Sheldon Himelfarb, PeaceTech Lab president and CEO.
“When people think about conflict, they’re picturing bombed-out buildings, bullets flying and chaos. But the fact is, in nearly every conflict zone we’ve worked, we see [technology],” Himelfarb said. “You don’t have to be defined by your immediate circumstances — there’s an outlet for expression, for cultivating and sharing new ideas, and for building something with purpose and value.”
US News & World Report
In Kenya, where elections can lead to violence, advocates pin their hopes on technology.
MPEKETONI, Kenya —Two dozen women have arranged themselves in a circle under the shade of a cashew tree, some with infants in their arms and toddlers at their feet. The afternoon meeting in this small farming community near Mpeketoni is not out of the ordinary. What's new is the handful of young people from the city who have come to tell the villagers about a text messaging-based phone app designed to prevent massacres.
"Do you know the meaning of rumors?" asks Margaret Wainaina in Kiswahili, but the women have yet to warm up to questions. "It's when you don't know if something is true or not," she says, receiving steady head nods in response. "If you hear something, before you go tell your neighbor, check with us."
Wainaina is a project coordinator for Una Hakika, an initiative from the Canadian nonprofit The Sentinel Project, an anti-genocide effort. In the regional language Kiswahili, "Una hakika?" means "Are you sure?" and the goal is to squash disinformation that can lead to conflict, especially in the lead-up to Kenya's hotly contested general election on August 8.
International Institute for Sustainable Development
July 2017: The Unreasonable Group, the US Department of State’s Office of Global Partnerships, and Johnson&Johnson hosted a two-week Unreasonable Goals program that brought together 16 entrepreneurial solutions, each of which aim to solve one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The winning solutions have connected over 7 million job seekers in India, saved almost 3 billion gallons of water and 450 acres of forest, and reused 2.5 million kilograms of plastic waste, among other achievements.
Unreasonable Goals is a public-private partnership dedicated to engaging highly profitable entrepreneurs with cutting edge technologies in contributing to achieving the SDGs. The 2017 event was the inaugural Unreasonable Goals accelerator program. The program is expected to run annually until 2030, collaborating with over 200 entrepreneurs and dozens of multinationals and national government. Lowe’s, Thomson Reuters, Bluescape, Amazon Web Services, and PeaceTech Lab also collaborated on the 2017 program.
The Washington DC based PeaceTech Accelerator has opened applications for its 2nd cohort and it is encouraging Afrikan startups to also apply. The 2nd cohort is set to start with the Accelerator program in Washington DC from 8 September 2017.
The PeaceTech Accelerator is an international startup accelerator program focussed on cloud innovation and dedicated to helping startups scale. The program runs over eight-weeks and it includes mentorship as well as a training part which has particular emphasis on cloud technology to help startups and non-profit organizations scale rapidly and sustainably.
De terreurgroep Boko Haram zet steeds vaker vrouwen in om zelfmoordaanslagen te plegen in Noordoost-Nigeria. Twee jonge vrouwen bliezen zich maandag op in een moskee in Maiduguri, de stad waar Boko Haram ruwweg tien jaar geleden opkwam. Het gebouw stortte in en er vielen acht doden. Een week eerder vielen negentien doden toen een vrouw zich opblies in een drukke straat van Maiduguri.
Het aantal aanslagen is volgens Nigeria-expert David Ehrhardt van de Universiteit Leiden toegenomen, omdat Boko Haram in het nauw is gedreven. "Het plegen van sporadische aanslagen is dan een logische stap", zegt hij. Daarnaast hebben vrouwen een tactisch voordeel volgens Ehrhardt, omdat ze "makkelijker wapens kunnen transporteren onder hun kleren".
A growing source of concern that divides people and societies is the use of hate speech through the social and mainstream media.
It is a trend Channels Academy hopes to check in the coming days, working in partnership with the Peace Media and Peace Tech Lab.
The Director of the Peace Media and Peace Tech Lab, Theo Dolan, who was at the launch of the Channels Academy in Abuja, said his organisation would support the academy’s curriculum.
“With the launch of the Channels (journalism) Academy, we can integrate hate speech training into the academy’s curriculum and that is what we are hoping to do. We’ll be in discussions about that and I think this is something that professional media can learn more about as well,” he said.
PeaceTech Accelerator, a Washington DC based cloud innovation centre and scale-up programme devoted to peace technology, is looking for more participants for its next cohort starting on 8 September with the third planned for January next year.
PeaceTech Accelerator was launched earlier this year by tech investment firm C5 Accelerate and PeaceTech Lab , a peace building non-profit, in collaboration with cloud computing service provider, Amazon Web Services, and has since graduated its first cohort.
It runs eight week programmes for companies and non-profit organisations involved in the development of innovative technologies that promote peace and build stronger, safer societies.
Recent terror attacks in the United States are far less common than in Europe, and Americans can thank geography and assimilation for that.
There were 100 attacks that killed 97 people in the U.S. in 2015-2016, compared to 604 attacks that claimed 383 victims in Western Europe during the same time period, according to the University of Maryland's Global Terrorism Database.
"There are oceans separating North America from the main conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa," where recent terrorists have been radicalized, said Phil Gurski, a former Canadian intelligence analyst who runs a threat and risk consulting firm. "It is far easier for extremists to get to Italy from Libya than it is for them to go from Libya to Canada or the U.S."
The world is gripped in fear, and day after day, we are reminded why. This ongoing project between Esri and PeaceTech Lab reveals that more than 400 reported terrorist attacks have occurred across the globe in 2017, with the estimated death count nearing 3,000.
Our fears are valid, and our desire to stem the tide of new terrorist recruits is necessary. However, our best shot at accomplishing this goal may not be found in our military’s ranks; it’s likely located within the private sector.
Misinformation can fuel bloodshed
Last month, fear spread that South Sudan’s government would collapse. The president had just removed the country’s powerful army chief of staff, Paul Malong, a hard-liner widely cast as the architect of some of the East African nation’s worst bouts of violence. The shake-up risked dividing the military in a country already mired in a chaotic three-year civil war largely divided along tribal lines. The conflict has produced ethnic cleansing, famine, and the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world. After Malong’s removal, the army was put on high alert.
Then the fake news came.
On Facebook, pages known for spouting ethnic propaganda began posting updates with wild news reports. One particularly egregious offender, the pro-Malong “Aweil Eye” page, claimed that a militia loyal to the recently sacked army chief was withdrawing from all over South Sudan and assembling in the city of Aweil. It implied they were getting ready to fight the government. Another post linked to an article claiming South Sudanese President Salva Kiir had been shot dead. Both were completely false. Yet the posts, and ones like it, helped fuel online panic about a possible military coup.
Based on crowdsourced data, the map shows a chronology of attacks worldwide
The ongoing laptop ban, March's Westminster attack, the shocking scenes at Manchester Arena and the London Bridge attack have brought terrorism back to the front pages in the UK. Since the start of 2017, there have been 535 attacks, with 3,635 fatalities (at the time of writing) across the globe.
Many of the gravest attacks have taken place in nations relatively overlooked by the majority of the public including Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia, and Bangladesh. To highlight the problem, and preserve a record of these atrocities, Esri Story Maps has teamed up and PeaceTech Lab to build the Terrorism Map.
Based on crowdsourced data, the map shows a chronology of terrorist attacks worldwide on the left-hand side and each of the attacks are plotted on a map using coloured circles on the right. From the list on the left, you can scroll back through 2017 to see which attacks occurred on which dates.
Augmented reality has so far been useless but is now being used for humanitarian causes
Voice of America
Political feuds and ethnic violence in South Sudan have displaced more than 1.5 million people. Among them is a software engineer determined to push past hate to promote peace through games.
Living in a refugee camp in Uganda, Mayen saw first-hand the consequences of hate-mongering and ethnic conflict, undeterred by numerous cease-fires and peace talks. All efforts to reconcile the Dinka and Nuer tribes, at odds since former Dinka Vice President Salva Kiir was dismissed in 2013, had failed. Change was necessary. As a game developer, Mayen was determined to help educate the country’s youth.
Two thirds of South Sudan’s population is under the age of 30. “They are not educated,” he lamented, “and their [lack of knowledge] is killing the country.”
So he founded Junub Games, a nonprofit organization that turns out video and board games with a singular focus on peace building. Within months, he released ‘Salaam,’ a mobile game whose name means ‘peace.’
Social media provides a unique mechanism for fast communication and all sorts of good things. But it’s not so great for fostering real, authentic, in-person interaction. Thus while the potential upside is huge, so is the downside.
About three years ago, psychologist Dr. Richard Wolman started noticing a troubling phenomenon among many of his tech-using patients. They seemed to be suffering from an anxiety that stemmed from a lack of strong real-life bonds.
After he shared that observation with friend and entrepreneur/techie Paul Schulz, they started working on a concept—a platform that could create what Schulz calls “a digital humanist response” to the interpersonal vacuum and online bubbles caused by social media.
Center for Data Innovation
The Center for Data Innovation spoke with Rohini Srihari, chief data scientist at PeaceTech Lab, a peacebuilding nonprofit based in Washington, DC. Srihari discussed the importance of data in peacebuilding and how nonprofit startups are adopting strategies from the private sector.
Joshua New: Over the past few years, the concept of “data for good” has become increasingly popular, though PeaceTech Lab is somewhat unique in that it focuses specifically on peace rather than just social good as a whole. What role does data play in peacebuilding?
Rohini Srihari: Our view is that data plays a huge role in peacebuilding and conflict prevention, and that the importance of data is only going to get more important. I think the best way to explain why is to give you the different ways data can be used in peacebuilding. One of the ways we use data is in early warning systems. Early warning can range from something very near-term—for example we’ve seen solutions that provide warnings about imminent bombing raids in Syria—to something longer out. You can take satellite data and sensor data to predict crop failure in certain regions in the world sometimes up to three months in advance. This kind of information can be very useful when trying to anticipate refugee migration patterns in advance rather than just reacting to a crisis when it happens.
- Map shows the amount of terrorism attacks which have taken place globally since the beginning of 2017
- The colour-coordinated map shows, so far, 406 attacks have taken place, which have killed 2,835 people
- The larger the circles, the more deaths have taken place in that particular city or town as a result of an attack
- Afghanistan and Iraq have the largest circles on the map due to 265 and 266 people being killed respectively
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the largest number of terrorism attacks in the world this year, according to an interactive map.
The map, created by Esri Story Maps and PeaceTech Lab, shows that Islamic State has has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks so far on the map - 140 in total - while a group listed as 'other', such as lone wolves, closely follow behind with 130 attacks.
As a result, Islamic State is responsible for 1,180 deaths that have occurred as a result of terrorism this year, with the total number of deaths being 2,835 by 1pm on May 6.
Theo Dolan, Director of PeaceTech Lab Africa and PeaceMedia, discusses the problem of hate speech in South Sudan, how people can take steps to verify and report instances of hate speech or "fake news," and encourages professional media outlets to report on cases of misinformation.
For Immediate Release
Startups will work with the three partner companies and mentors to reach the next stage of development
Washington D.C. April 27, 2017 – C5, the investment specialist firm focused on cloud computing, cyber security and big data analytics, announces today that five startups have entered its PeaceTech Accelerator, housed at the iconic United States Institute of Peace building on the National Mall. C5 is the lead investor and is working with Amazon Web Services (“AWS”) and PeaceTech Lab.
Peacetech is recognized as the application of technology to assist civilians living in conflict and crisis zones. The startups were selected based on their ability to produce innovative technologies that manage, mitigate, predict, or prevent conflict and promote sustainable peace. They have already developed prototypes for further development.
The first group is a combination of for-profit and not-for-profit companies. In many cases the for-profit companies are already revenue generating. Examples of their work include: technology to increase security for women in crowded spaces; online gaming to promote empathy; and interactive applications that provide a platform for children in conflict zones to tell their stories.
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.”
Technological advances are reshaping the way the world works and a new accelerator is supporting the development of platforms focused on ending conflict and promoting sustainable peace.
Launched by the PeaceTech Lab and C5 Accelerate, with support from Amazon Web Services (AWS), the initiative – which labels itself as the ‘first cloud innovation centre’ – provides startups with eight weeks of financial and professional backing, along with access to international decision makers.
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.