Washington, D.C. — In a time when disinformation, misinformation, and hate speech online trigger conflict offline, how can peacebuilding practitioners engage with technology partners to create peace? What do technology companies need to know to successfully help address these issues? And why do these partnerships sometimes seem difficult to establish?
At Dexis’ session at PeaceCon@10 on January 27, 2022, “Data Science Meets Social Science: Building Digital Spaces that Enable Peace,” moderator Vera Zakem and panelists offered perspectives on these questions from their diverse experiences in using technology to address online harms.
The session launched with an audience poll, revealing that 70% of participants did not know the primary technology partners working to address disinformation, misinformation, and hate speech in their country or context. At the same time, participants identified tech companies as the first place they would turn to prevent, detect, or mitigate these harms.
Norik Selimi’s company Pikasa uses technology to map disinformation and hate speech in the Western Balkans. Norik emphasized that before collecting data or using artificial intelligence, it is critical to gain an in-depth understanding of the local media landscape: “Before I would take any other step, I would need to understand how mass media and digital outlets behave in each country, how they bring people to the platforms, how each media source plays a role, and how people react to the source’s content.”
Derek Ruths, Chief Architect at Charitable Analytics International, also underscored the importance of a localized approach. The definition of hate speech or disinformation is regional, personal, and cultural, and “some level of collective understanding is always missing,” Derek noted. He urged partners, including those with lived experience in a context, to take time to develop collective understanding and a lexicon on their topic before engaging in media monitoring.
Atlantic Council Digital Forensics Research Lab Fellow Kat Duffy reaffirmed that peacebuilding practitioners who find engaging technology solutions challenging are not alone. “You’re right,” she said, pointing to systemic challenges like a supply shortage of technical talent in civil society and the lack of a standardized operating model for funders and partners to collaborate on such cross-cutting issues. Kat highlighted that the Machine Learning for Peace Project at DevLab@Duke has modeled aspects of a successful partnership: engaging and compensating local expertise and allowing for trial and error.
In closing, panelists urged peacebuilders not to undervalue their contribution to these partnerships. Said Kat: “Listen to your ‘Spidey sense’- you know your space, you know your area, you know your context. Don’t discount yourself as a core part.”
About Dexis Consulting Group
Dexis is a professional services firm that solves the most pressing social challenges in complex environments, paving the way for a more secure and prosperous world. We advance the mission of leading global engagement agencies, including USAID, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. We specialize in stabilization and conflict mitigation, security sector assistance, rule of law, anti-corruption, and inclusive economic growth. Our staff of over 500 full-time employees maintain an active presence across 80 countries.
For media inquiries, contact: Kerry Fogarty at email@example.com.