Social Media, Conflict, and Peacebuilding

Issues and Challenges

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Violent conflict is on the rise, and increasingly, social media is playing an important role: political actors have used social media to target critics with disinformation, while COVID‑19 misinformation spread online has spurred hate speech to stigmatise groups. Current off-line and online approaches and tools to address these challenges seem insufficient to the task. Moreover, there are real dangers inherent in some current responses, such as exposure of human rights defenders to attack and restrictions on speech by governmental authorities.

This paper, the product of a working group of NGO and academic experts, aims to be a practical statement about the ‘weaponisation’ of social media and peacebuilding responses to it. It attempts to articulate an emerging consensus among peacebuilders about what we know about working in this area, and very practically, what approaches are effective or promising. The goals are to provide a common starting point for addressing social media drivers of conflict for practitioners, both local and global; suggest some priorities for organisations, donors, and governments; and serve as a foundation for other related discussions.