The #defyhatenow Social Media Hate Speech Mitigation Field Guide Launch

The Internet, Social Media, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube … We tend to use these terms interchangeably. Most of us haven’t ever been  in a class that taught us how to use the internet responsibly. We have learned how to navigate these platforms by ourselves as we go. It is fun, and offers endless distraction, it can be so much fun that it even gets addictive. And then there are those people who share anything and everything – true or false, factual or fictional, offensive and non offensive – they will just share.

Some of us struggle with navigating our way around every online platform as they continue to evolve and mushroom into new possibilities for exchanging messages and sharing news, articles and ideas. As soon as you are comfortable navigating one platform you sleep in warm socks, happy that you are competent at something. The developers also sleep and it seems they dream that they need to torture the users with new interfaces and channels. They wake up before you and change all the algorithms. Once again you are struggling to figure out how it all works.

This is where the #defyhatenow Social Media Hate Speech Mitigation Field Guide comes in.

The guide is a tool that offers strategies and resources to mitigate and combat hate speech both online and offline. It is meant for those of us who are using social media and are interested in becoming a positive influence in our communities The Field Guide is especially aimed at people who want to have a positive impact through developing social media skills to navigate these every changing waters.

The #defyhatenow Social Media Hate Speech Mitigation Field Guide was developed by the team behind #defyhatenow – an initiative to raise awareness of and develop means for countering social media based hate speech, conflict rhetoric and directed online incitement to violence. The team aims to help amplify ‘positive influencers’ by occupying South Sudan’s social media landscape with voices of peace building and counter-messaging rather than leaving that space open to agents of conflict. As we extended our efforts offline with workshops, trainings and other activities we began to see the need to provide a comprehensive tool that gives instructions and tips on how to navigate Social Media in a safe and ethical framework.

The #defyhatenow Field Guide seeks to support those working either as individuals or in collaboration with South Sudan’s many youth, civil society, peace-builder and media organizations, international agencies, churches and schools. As much as it is aimed towards the South Sudanese audience it is a guide that has also been used in Uganda, Egypt and Kenya. It is very versatile and we hope that much of the information and tools it contains can be applied to any context worldwide. Aside from the Field Guide book, there is a collection of concept cards to facilitate discussions, posters that illustrate the key ideas , notes for facilitators,and a game to reach a ‘Free and Prosperous South Sudan”. The #defyhatenow Field Guide incorporates the learning from the guide into the game as a playful way to reinforce what you have learned with the group.

The initiative emphasizes that: “Peace is the responsibility of every one of us, both in our capacities as individuals or as part of communities. This realization compels us to revisit our role as bloggers, educators, or citizens in maintaining and making peace in this growingly complex global picture. Social media is only a tool that has proved influential in both the making and the disruption of peace, therefore it is our responsibility to use it wisely.”

As Stephen Kovats, r0g_agency, notes, “Incitement to violence is very specific in that it needs strategic action to counter and requires community leaders and citizens to become involved and engaged in direct actions to mitigate the threat of violence erupting. While hate speech can form a basis for incitement, one can still use personal strategies to engage with speakers, bring down the tone of rhetoric and shift attitudes. Group strategies are needed to respond as a community to dangerous speech online and mitigate the factors contributing to violence offline.” The guide is one of the strategic actionable tools that will enhance our individual efforts towards correct use of all the online platforms.

The official launch of #defyhatenow Field Guide is on 2nd of July in Juba. It has been developed from the prototype with feedback from our team, facilitators and partners to be as relevant as possible. We hope there is useful material there for everyone who wishes to embrace it and that it will make our shared experiences online more accurate, informed and civil.