Hate Speech in South Sudan: Social Media as a Weapon of War

PeaceTech Lab, 03 May 2017

In 2016 PeaceTech Lab conducted research to better understand the connection between online hate speech and violence on the ground in South Sudan. The Lab created a lexicon of hate speech terms and monitored social media in support of local initiatives combating hate speech.
#defyhatenow #anataban #peace4all #SouthSudan


Berlin: re:publica 2017

Social Media and Conflict: How to mitigate online hate speech that fuels violence?

Monday May 8, @ 19.45 – 20.45 (Stage 2)

Since gaining independence in 2011 the Republic of South Sudan has become embroiled in a protracted civil conflict claiming thousands of lives and displacing over a million people. When violent clashes between government and opposition forces erupted in the capital Juba on the eve of its fifth anniversary in July 2016 the role played by social media in stoking violence, fear and ethnic hatred came to the fore. Initiatives such as #defyhatenow, working with local communities to identify and mitigate social media hate speech, along with the surveying and monitoring of ethnic hate terminology by the Peace Tech Lab seek to create mechanisms to curb conflict rhetoric as urgent peace-building measures.

What´s love (got to do with this)? – Fireside Chat about #LOL instead of hating in silence

Wednesday May 10, @ 10.30 – 11.00 (Stage 2)

Clemantine Wamarya and Mugethi Gitau are honoring this year´s theme “Loving out Loud” by defining what love might be in respect for oneself, for community, for country and for the world; discussing the importance of being aware of what is in our way of loving outloud as opposed to hating in silence, rooted in their personal lived experience.

Global Innovation Gathering

GIG Makerspace & Program @ re:publica

The Global Innovation Gathering (GIG), a sub-conference developed by re:publica, brings together innovation hub managers, makers, hackers and entrepreneurs from across the world. In the last four years GIG has become a central part of the conference programme, showcasing tech innovation and maker projects from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

2017 GIG is taking place in collaboration with the StartHubs Asia Berlin project, initiated by the City of Berlin, and GIZ. Over 20 different nationalities will be hosting talks and workshops ranging from using the open-source software Ushahidi for reporting extra judicial killings in the Philippines, to open citizen data projects in Indonesia, Columbia and Brazil, and self-made ISPs in the Amazon jungle. The programme also covers current and global political developments and discusses various issues such as the prevailing debate on online hate speech and how to mitigate it, in particular in conflict regions such as South Sudan.

Juba: World Press Freedom Day 3 May 2017

“Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies.”

3rd May acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. Just as importantly, World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media which are targets for the restraint, or abolition, of press freedom. It is also a day of remembrance for those journalists who lost their lives in the pursuit of a story.


“Freedom of expression is 4 everyone & not the media only.”Mary Ajith, D/Chair, Association of Media Development in

Mary Ajith, D/Chair, Association of Media Development, South Sudan

Mary Ajith, D/Chair, Association of Media Development, South Sudan

UNESCO Round Table Conference: Countering Hate Speech for Peace in South Sudan
Juba Grand, Gudele Hall, 2nd May 2017

UNESCO & Partners, Juba

UNESCO Roundtable on Countering Hate Speech, Nelson Kwaje, Juba

UNESCO Roundtable on Countering Hate Speech, Nelson Kwaje, Juba

Nelson Kwaje, #defyhatenow Social Media manager talking about the impact of hate speech in Juba, South Sudan.

Round Table Conference: Countering Hate Speech for Peace in South Sudan

Round Table Conference: Countering Hate Speech for Peace in South Sudan

#Peace4all Music Video at #PeaceVillage, Rhino Camp Uganda

#PeaceVillage uses music to send positive and educational messages through songs and poems, raising awareness of the consequences of violence and the importance of peacebuilding, by discouraging hate speech online & offline.


The music program is designed to break down the prejudices that exist among South Sudanese communities and foster a culture of reconciliation by sending positive & educational messages through music & poems.

#Peace4ALL video was recorded at Luruja, Terego (Rhino camp).

Luruja is a cluster settlement inside Ofua zone which is yet the biggest settlement within the Rhino camp with a population that amounts to 30,000 people as of November 2016. Three members of the group are urban refugees who are running small businesses in Arua.

Brought together by their desire and commitment to fight ignorance about hate speech online and the effects of war, the groups embeds education in their lyrics in a bid to #defyhatenow.

#Peace4ALL #defyhatenow #AnaTaban #PeaceVillage #SouthSudan

Hate Speech Lexicon in South Sudan

‘El Pais’ article by Gloria Pallares, 11 April 2017
English translation by Johanna Schnitzler

Social Media fuels war in a country on the brink of genocide. The Hate Speech 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.

 Visualizaciones elaboradas por PeaceTech Lab que muestra palabras usadas de forma recurrente que incitan a la violencia

Visualizaciones elaboradas por PeaceTech Lab que muestra palabras usadas de forma recurrente que incitan a la violencia

South Sudanese Journalists Face Increasing Threats as Political Violence Peaks, July 2016

by Pernille Baerendtsen

The media and civil society have long struggled to survive in Sudan and South Sudan, but the impact of the conflict that erupted in 2013 has made working in media even more dangerous. The government released a set of quasi-official (and thus unclear) guidelines of what journalists “should” (and by default, should not) report on. In 2014,officials banned journalists from citing political or militant sources opposing the government. […]

This difficult media climate alongside a slow but steady increase in Internet and mobile phone use has led citizens to rely more heavily on major social media platforms, chiefly Facebook, for information. While this shift has had some positive effects, it also has increased the potential for the spread of misinformation and political propaganda.

On July 10, South Sudanese security and development analyst Jok Madut Jok, who is also co-founder of the Sudd Institute, wrote on Facebook:

Listen folks, South Sudanese in the Diaspora, please stop commenting on social media about what is going on in Juba right now. You know no shit about this….just try to find your relatives on phone, check on them to see if they are safe, help them in whatever way you can, and then shut the fuck up. You are not helping whatsoever. I’m not trying to suppress your individual rights to speak all you want, but only asking you to weigh what you say, and do so with a conscience… Every misinformation you peddle will most likely cost us another life. Is it not enough that our leaders have caused us this pain, do you have to add salt to injury?

Matthew LeRiche, a lecturer in conflict, security and development, describes how social media is affecting local conversations and perspectives on the conflict:

Many people in South Sudan, especially youth facing major difficulties in accessing information, are turning to Facebook as a primary source for news and information – and in many cases as their only source. They then pass this information onto others via very effective local word of mouth channels, [which have] greater scope and velocity due to mobile phones. The comments particularly by those in the diaspora, but also many media and other commentators, are then filtered back through communities.

LeRiche goes on to describe how these information flows can sometimes lead to misinformation or even stoke further tension or conflict:

Such sources, especially those with education in the West are seen as authoritative by many back in South Sudan. People then act on whatever information they have since they are in active survival mode and there are few opportunities for verification. The action taken is at best antagonism and at worst overt acts of violence. This dynamic also grants justification to many to act on sentiment or desire that might have been curtailed without a supporting narrative.

South Sudanese journalists have spoken against hate speech, as well as religious leaders, and on July 23 a group of activists got together in Nairobi under the #defyhatenow hashtag in an initiative to combat social media hate speech. The event was initiated by a collaboration between r0g_agency for open culture and critical transformation in Berlin and the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO) in Juba.


PeaceTech Lab AFRICA online hate speech lexicon – interview on Radio Miraya

#defyhatenow supports efforts to build ongoing peace and stability across all communities of South Sudan, offline/online and through the diaspora.

In recent months the landscape and impact of social media has been widely acknowledged as a factor contributing to the ongoing violence in South Sudan.

Our committment to the South Sudanese communities and diaspora continues in  working towards a peaceful, civil society in this complex and challenging scenario.

r0g_agency, Berlin Wednesday 12th October 2016

We condemn the escalation of conflict in Juba and urge all parties to seek peaceful resolutions & implement the peace agreement. Our thoughts and wishes for safety are with the people of South Sudan.

r0g_agency, Berlin Tuesday 12th July 2016

Communique: Peace and Security Council (PSC), African Union (AU) 11th July
UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner Geneva 11th July
UNMISS United Nationals Mission in South Sudan Press Release 10th July
African Union Statement, Addis Ababa 8th July:

At this 5th anniversary of the independence of South Sudan, the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma calls upon the South Sudanese Leadership to continue showing in a consistent manner to the deserving people of South Sudan irreversible signals that peace has come back. The Chairperson urges all the South Sudanese, including the members of the armed and security forces, to support their leaders in their efforts to reconcile the people of South Sudan, and to bring back law and order.

10-student_group_picStudents at #defyhatenow social media awareness workshop, Juba 2016