Recognizing the global relevance of social media threats to human rights, democracy, and peace, the Tokyo-based Toda Peace Institute convened twenty experts from the fields of peacebuilding, democracy, governance, and human rights for two days at the Airlie House retreat center outside Washington, D.C., for an international workshop on December 7-9, 2018.
Alarming stories about social media hit the news almost every day with headlines announcing violations of user privacy as social media companies collecting and selling our personal information, Russian troll farms attempting to suppress the African American vote in the US election to assist the Trump campaign, and Facebook executives delaying, denying, and deflecting responsibility for vast impacts of their platform on democracy, rights to privacy, polarization and personal safety.
While techno-optimists imagined technology connecting and bringing people together around the planet, new technologies have come with unimaginable costs to our privacy, our democracy and societal relationships, and to peace and human security. Social media threats to society amplify the pace of polarization and hate speech but did not invent these age-old problems. These problems are too big for the tech industry to fix on its own.
This report identifies social media threats on social cohesion, human rights, violence and democracy and then identifies creative options for addressing those threats through:
- Building a better bridge between offline dialogue and online platforms
- Helping tech companies improve their platform design and moderation
- Supporting civic tech and peace tech options for addressing social media threats
- Mobilizing civil society to develop campaigns to address social media threats directly or through leveraging pressure on tech companies and governments
- Leveraging financial and legal pressure on tech companies
- Recognizing the education and research necessary to develop better long-term solutions
This workshop is part of a larger program at the Toda Peace Institute on Social Media, Technology and Peacebuilding which includes a series of policy briefs, beginning with a peacebuilding review of the “Social Media Impacts on Social and Political Goods" in October 2018. The Toda Peace Institute is planning further policy briefs, workshops, and a “Global Summit on Technology and Peacebuilding” planned for 2020.