Social Media 4 Peace
The overall objective of this UNESCO project is to strengthen the resilience of societies to potentially harmful content spread online, in particular hate speech inciting violence while protecting freedom of expression and enhancing the promotion of peace through digital technologies, notably social media.
January 2021 - December 2023
- 4 pilot countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Indonesia, and Kenya.
- Global level: the lessons learnt at the local level will feed-in for the global discussion at the international level.
Why this project?
The increasing digitalization of societies worldwide has led to unprecedented opportunities for the free flow of information. But there are growing concerns about how digital communication tools have become instrumental platforms to spread harmful content with a significant impact on conflict dynamics and peace. Apart from spreading hate, social media are also increasingly used to spread disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda designed to mislead a population, as strongly noticed during the COVID-19 sanitary crisis.
The moderation and curation rules of online, potentially harmful content are mostly discussed at the global level in a “one size fits all" fashion. Yet, the complexity of addressing online, potentially harmful content lies in the impossibility to define precisely the boundaries of the type of content covered irrespective of the context. This is why the project foresees to, in addition to using human rights principles as a universal baseline, take into account social, cultural, and linguistic nuances to develop and review content moderation and curation rules and tools in a localized manner.
Moreover, digital technologies, in particular social media, are not systematically used in peace-building processes, although there are few recent examples of organisations and campaigns that have successfully mobilized social media to empower people, notably the youth, to allow an inclusive dialogue on issues such as climate change. This is why the project will maximize digital technologies’ potential to promote initiatives and narratives that create incentives for peace rather than violence to become a critical element of peace-building.
This new project is aligned with UNESCO’s overall strategy to combat disinformation by fostering the information as a public good and strengthening the transparency of the internet ecosystem. The project will contribute to the achievement of SDG 16, to promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies and to the UN Plan of Action on Hate Speech launched by UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez to combat the online disturbing groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance.
Video presenting the project.
Objectives and activities
Enhanced understanding of the root causes, scale, and impact of potentially harmful content and of the effectiveness of the tools to address it in 3 pilot countries.
- Map legal instruments and tools developed by national authorities and social media platforms to address the issue.
- Monitor the context of dissemination of harmful content - its root causes, intent, and effects on people and their behaviour.
- Establish a national multi-stakeholder platform to define gaps between realities of the phenomenon and measures taken by various stakeholders to tackle harmful online content (i.e., sufficiently efficient or over-restrictive, compliant with international human rights standards).
- Draft a preliminary country-based risk assessment based on societal and political cleavages and draft recommendations to increase the effectiveness of measures and tools to address potentially harmful content and prevent conflicts and instability.
Improved curbing of potentially harmful content online in 3 pilot countries.
- Develop new tools, including digital ones to address harmful content.
- Increase the capacities of stakeholders (authorities, judicial operators, social media companies, and CSOs in relation to harmful content) to improve content moderation practices.
- Pilot “appeals councils” to adjudicate on social media users' complaints.
- Inform the global community of the lessons learnt of the project.
Enhanced promotion and support of peace-building narratives and initiatives through digital technologies and social media.
- Organise training of selected CSOs working on peace processes on the use of social media to produce and share peace-building narratives.
- Organise MIL training to empower youth to be more resilient to harmful content, notably disinformation and hate speech online.
- Online awareness-raising campaigns and development of Apps, a hackathon to support peace initiatives.
- Organise training of selected media professionals on conflict-sensitive reporting.
Conference on Countering online disinformation and hate speech to foster peace
On the 2021 International Day of Peace and ahead of the Universal Access to Information Day, UNESCO organized the conference ‘Countering online disinformation and hate speech to foster peace’ with the support of the European Union. The event gave the opportunity to examine pressing global issues of social media content governance, in particular in conflict-prone environments, and the need to develop common principles and workable practices for an online space that can impact at local level. In the session related to the project Social Media 4 Peace, stakeholders and representatives of social media platforms discussed how the project intends to increase knowledge on the impact of online content on offline behaviors and conflict dynamics, and how it could pilot new tools at local level to curb harmful content.
Research reports on content moderation and freedom of expression with Article 19
On the first International Day for Countering Hate Speech, UNESCO and its partner Article 19 launched research reports on online content moderation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Indonesia and Kenya. The reports provide concrete recommendations and call for creating local coalitions on freedom of expression and content moderation to bridge the gap between internet companies and civil society organizations.
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