Conflict prevention is one of the most important and most difficult challenges of our time, which can only be addressed through the combined effort of many different groups, agencies and sectors. The multi-stakeholder approach proposes that such different types of groups can work together, or at least in synergy, towards a common objective. In countering modern-day conflict, social media’s role cannot be overlooked; the medium is often used to fuel conflicts by means of hate speech, dehumanizing language and outright incitement to violence as witnessed in many parts of the world. The #defyhatenow Cameroon Field Guide takes into account such happenings in the West African nation which is facing multiple facets of conflict; the government and separatists from the English-speaking minority, a renewed Boko Haram insurgency centred in the Far North and an ethnic discourse, all which are contributing to heightened political tensions.
Online spaces such as social media platforms, private and public messaging forums and blogs, as well as more established platforms such as print and broadcast media provide platforms for dangerous speech to occur, be shared and amplified. The #defyhatenow team aims to raise awareness of and develop means for countering social media based hate speech, conflict rhetoric and directed online incitement to violence, and to amplify ‘positive influencers’ occupying Cameroon’s social media landscape with voices of peacebuilding and counter-messaging rather than leaving that space open to agents of conflict. The Field Guide, therefore, offers tools and strategies to be used by community-based organizations & online campaigns for peacebuilding in Cameroon.
Divided into eight chapters that each cover a specific aspect of the conflict and peacebuilding process, the field guide acts as a base of action on media-induced hate speech awareness to tackle conflict, support media literacy and address issues of migration and displacement. The first chapter discusses social media and conflict and explains how the two are related in the context of Cameroon, instructs on how to identify hate speech, and provides a lexicon of hate speech terms to look out for. It also looks at all the policies and laws surrounding hate speech, how different social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are working to curb such on their sites, as well as government laws that address it. This knowledge is essential if one is to know how to go about reporting hate speech, which is also discussed in this chapter. Closely related, chapter three looks into social media literacy and explains how to distinguish hate speech from dangerous speech, teaches how to verify information found online and how to tackle misinformation, and manipulated or false content.
Peacebuilding in the age of social media is the focus of the second chapter, and this is done through raising three pertinent questions – how social media can be used for peacebuilding, what human and digital rights are, and why online freedom of expression matters. Several governments have been known to silence dissent by criminalizing free speech and limiting freedom of expression, and this is discussed using outspoken Ugandan activist Dr Stella Nyanzi as a case study. Her use of creative flair and metaphors while criticizing the government of Yoweri Museveni has seen her run afoul of the Computer Misuse Act, a law which Amnesty International called to be scrapped because it “has been used systematically to harass, intimidate and stifle government critics”. The chapter also covers the current state of digital rights in Cameroon in terms of access to information, right to privacy and freedom of expression, and addresses the internet shutdowns. Technology as a whole is discussed in chapter five and how it relates to the peacebuilding process, with activities such as Mbolabs, National Hackathon Series and Kiro’o Games held up as examples of how technology can be used to contribute to the process.
So how is one supposed to conduct himself/herself on social media? The social media code of conduct according to civil society, is discussed in chapter four. It addresses cyberbullying, harassment of women online and the importance of civil society action and education. Transparency, consistency, fairness and respectfulness, as well as verifying that one’s posts are accurate go a long way in ensuring your interactions on social media remain hate-free and do not add on to any conflict. Chapter six brings with it the pyramid of hate, which shows biased behaviours, growing in complexity from the bottom to the top. The actions at the top are more life-threatening, but they stemmed from the seemingly harmless behaviours at the bottom which were not curbed. Being aware of any prejudices and creating meaningful inter-group discussions can go a long way in preventing things from escalating.
Trauma is common among people who have experienced conflict, and the Field Guide addresses this in its eighth chapter, trying to correct misconceptions and myths that surround it. Along with how to use social media to avoid triggering trauma, a case study for Laughter for Trauma Healing in Cameroon is provided. Addressing trauma and helping the peacebuilding process through art has long been championed by governments and non-governmental organizations alike, and the entirety of chapter seven has been dedicated to art and social change. Activities such as the #peacejam shows how the arts can be used to combat hate speech, and use of culture to build long-lasting peace.
As this Field Guide is a toolkit to address and support community-based peacebuilding efforts, several tools are available to help CBO facilitators in their campaigns against hate speech. The entire resource package also contains:
- A1 Poster & Game: ‘Quick reference’ tips and tools for responsible social media use
- A4 Guidebook: Detailed information for workshop facilitators & further training resources
- A4 Handouts: Selection of handouts and exercises to photocopy and use in the training
- A5 Cards: 10 Concept Cards to facilitate group discussion in workshops
- A2 Posters (Series of 5): Concept illustrations to use as visual discussion guides & prompts
- A USB key – that contains all the materials in the resource package but in soft copy and other references, publications, video and audio files
- A pen and Post-it notes
The A4 Guide book known as “Notes for Facilitators” has the how to organize a hate speech awareness training among other resources There’s a provided checklist for all materials needed for a workshop, a sample programme timetable and guidelines on how to moderate the workshop and ensure knowledge transfer.
b>Discussion cards – There are discussion cards pertaining to all the topics contained in the field guide, and these come with questions to consider to direct the discussion.
Posters – These are loaded with information on how to recognize and combat hate speech, like ThinkB4UClick which encourages the reader to consider the implications of what they post on social media, Categories of Hate Speech that outline the ways hate speech can be propagated, and Hashtags for Peace. All these offer a chance for discussions at the group level and a better chance of the message being multiplied away from the workshop.
Games – Games provide a lighthearted and interactive way to learn. The #defyhatenow resource package contains a version of “Snakes & Ladders”, which is a game of rewards and consequences. Positive peace messages and actions are rewarded, while any hate speech is punished.
This information-packed guide is a necessity for any peacebuilder or conflict resolution practitioner interested in helping to resolve an ongoing social conflict. Although all of the articles may not apply uniformly to everyone, each chapter contains a wealth of information that will help in the peacebuilding process.
We will be talking more about how to use the Field Guide Resource Package on 10th November 2020 at 16:00hrs WAT/CET or 18:00hrs EAT as we officially launch the CAMEROON HATE SPEECH MITIGATION FIELD GUIDE.
Join us on this Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87988682209?pwd=dlUzMFhEeDNtR0taeTg5ZVN3ZnRVdz09
Meeting ID: 879 8868 2209
In case the room is full, you can still follow a stream of the event on our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/defyhatenow/
We look forward to having you there.