Policy Brief No.51 - October, 2019 • By Tendai Marima
The rise of social media in Zimbabwe has brought with it a greater variety of platforms which offer people a means to express themselves. However, the democratisation of information and the increase in digital spaces have also come with greater state restriction and polarisation among Zimbabweans. This policy brief discusses the state’s attempts to act as the proctor of social media in order to explore the relations between users of online platforms in terms of political leanings and gender. To this end, it will also discuss how online targeting can exacerbate already existing political divisions between people and how the state uses legal instruments to surveil and regulate online activity as a way of maintaining its iron grip on the people. The policy brief concludes with recommendations aimed at stopping hateful, harmful or false narratives being spread at the click of a button.
Policy Brief No.50 - October, 2019 • By Medinat Abdulazeez Malefakis
This policy brief analyses the use of social media by different groups affected by Boko Haram’s terrorist insurgence, including the group itself. The rate, speed, spread and belief which information from social media commands has changed theatres of war and amplified terrorist threats. The Nigerian youth who are the forerunners of social media use in the country have further employed Hashtag (#) Activism for varied causes regarding Boko Haram. This study examines the use of social media in ‘orchestrated data circulation’ by both the insurgents and the Nigerian government, and the populace’s growing awareness of the power they wield by simply having internet data and a phone. This brief concludes with recommendations regarding ways that tech companies and Civil Society Organisations could re-influence the social media dynamics in Boko Haram’s terrorist insurgence.
Policy Brief No.45 - July, 2019 • By Lydia Laurenson
This is the second of two policy briefs on polarisation in relation to digital media. It describes interventions currently being attempted by NGOs and other peacebuilders using digital platforms as their medium, and interventions that the platforms themselves have tested and/or put into action, including in some cases how the impacts are measured. Many organisations and individuals are working on digital peacebuilding, while a larger number explore broad societal impacts of digital media and the research questions identified in the first brief. The conclusion of this brief categorises interventions according to the degree of invasiveness felt by their subjects, discusses their costs and benefits, and provides recommendations for digital media platforms.
Policy Brief No.44 - July, 2019 • By Lydia Laurenson
This policy brief is one of two which examines the issue of polarisation and the extent to which it is driven by digital media. Even if polarisation is not driven by digital media, severe conflicts playing out on the digital stage are in themselves an urgent problem. It is plausible that some forms of digital media drive polarisation and others do not, and also possible that digital media impacts vary by culture. No matter “who is to blame,” new opportunities to build peace are blossoming on digital media. Many people are working hard to build peace using the Internet, and we can learn a lot from their approaches. This first brief is a research overview about polarisation and policy issues related to digital media. After summarising a range of studies in this area, the policy brief closes with a series of questions highlighting where further research is most needed.
Policy Brief No.42 - June, 2019 • By Sabine Shyre
Throughout this policy brief, we vet the use of social media in a major Middle Eastern country - Egypt - where the youth took to the streets to express frustrations that lasted almost a lifetime. While social media helped topple autocratic dictator, Hosni Mubarak, it played the role of Pandora’s box, unwittingly showing the strengths and weaknesses of the society’s fabric. The brief follows a string of events that changed the face of the Egyptian state and with it came conflict. We also discuss how extremism infiltrated potentially every home with access to internet and offer solutions that can aid this creeping disease that lures sympathisers. Finally we list a number of recommendations that could help civil society groups sustain a dialogue and a have a strong impact on the general public.