Research Launched to Map Online Hate Speech in South Sudan

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.

Preliminary findings

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.

He says that raising awareness among social media users around the world is urgently needed to shed  light on the dangers of hate speech, particularly related to South Sudan.

“The research is incredibly important because South Sudan has been in conflict for so long. People are already traumatized and online hate speech can reinforce this trauma,” states Dolan.

 “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. 

While the UN Charter was written and agreed on long before the appearance of online hate speech it makes several references to the importance of non-discrimination, the respect for human rights and the need to resolve disputes amicably. The men and women behind the UN Charter would certainly not condone the virulent use of present-day, border-crossing online hate speech.

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