Policy Briefs Books Journals

Policy Briefs on Social Media, Technology and Peacebuilding

Social Media, Technology and Peacebuilding

Policy Brief No.158: Digital Warfare and Peace: Learning from Ukraine’s response to the Russian invasion

Policy Brief  No.158 - May, 2023 • By Anna Romandash

This Policy Brief explores the ongoing infowars in the Russia–Ukraine war which began in February 2022. Since 2014, due to the Kremlin’s propaganda channels, troll armies, and “useful idiots” in the West and beyond, Russia was able to control the narrative on the situation in Donbas and Crimea and significantly diminish both support and interest toward Ukraine. However, after the start of the full-scale war in 2022, Ukraine shifted international views on the Russian invasion. Ukraine’s efforts significantly contributed to Russia’s digital isolation and mainstreamed Ukraine’s counter-narratives using open-source data, digital allies, and successful communication campaigns.

Social Media, Technology and Peacebuilding

Policy Brief No.154: A Roadmap for Collaboration on Technology and Social Cohesion

Policy Brief  No.154 - February, 2023 • By Lisa Schirch

This commissioned report is one of several resulting from a year-long research project funded by the Toda Peace Institute’s program on Social Media, Technology and Peacebuilding The tech sector wields enormous power over the thoughts and actions of billions of people. Toxic polarization stymies governments from helping to solve pressing problems from Covid to the climate crisis. Humanity needs technology that builds trust and civic health rather than outrage and division, and people who understand how to build bridges in divided communities to be better equipped to use technology. In 2020, a working group formed to explore a Council on Technology and Cohesion to bring practitioners who heal division together with people who design technology. This report maps the kinds of activities that could help to build a movement for prosocial technology to support social cohesion.

Social Media, Technology and Peacebuilding

Policy Brief No.140: Kazakhstan’s Bloody January: Digital Repression on the “New Silk Road”

Policy Brief  No.140 - November, 2022 • By Raushan Zhandayeva and Rachael Rosenberg

This Policy Brief explores the January 2022 Kazakhstan government shut down of internet access for several days while enacting a violent crackdown on initially peaceful protests which were triggered by hikes in fuel prices. It examines Kazakhstan’s internet and media landscape, the (re)actions of civil society and the state, and the factors that set the stage for this extreme act of digital repression, which created a disturbing precedent for the country and the Eurasia region more broadly. The paper concludes by briefly exploring the potential implications for Kazakhstan’s governance, economic development, and collective memory nearly a year on from the events.

Social Media, Technology and Peacebuilding

Policy Brief No.137: How Big Data Can Bolster Autocratic Legitimacy (Via the Rhetoric of Safety and Convenience)

Policy Brief  No.137 - September, 2022 • By Prithvi Subramani Iyer

This Policy Brief examines the different ways in which big data collection serves autocratic agendas by hiding the oppressive potential of heightened surveillance through promises of enhanced safety, convenience, and modernisation. Political actors with autocratic agendas can package their governance agenda via these promises of big data to bolster their legitimacy as leaders and avoid backlash for their invasive policies. The paper explores case studies illustrating that in some cases citizens welcome or do not object to invasive policies when autocrats frame the collection of private information as enhancing citizen safety and convenience. The paper then unpacks how the narrative push for digital solutionism and technology optimism unwittingly serves autocratic agendas. Finally, recommendations are provided for policymakers and civil society organisations seeking to resist the sinister alliance of big data and autocratic repression or what some have rightfully called, “digital dictatorships.''

Social Media, Technology and Peacebuilding

Policy Brief No.130: Decolonising Peacebuilding: A Way Forward Out of Crisis

Policy Brief  No.130 - June, 2022 • By Lisa Schirch

This Policy Brief begins by describing the evolution of the peacebuilding field in two related categories: one emphasising social justice, and the other, at the opposite end of the spectrum, emphasising stability, and concludes by exploring an agenda for decolonising peacebuilding. Current economic and political models often seem to be fuelling disorder rather than promoting the order or stability they aim to achieve. How will the peacebuilding field respond or transform given current global challenges? What would a “build back better” approach to peacebuilding look like, starting from the current triad of crises—pandemic, climate change and weaponisable technology—, which some have claimed constitute a “new world disorder”? What would a “great reset” for the peacebuilding field look like in practice?