Thanks to a sponsorship from the Near East South Asia (NESA) Center for Strategic Studies, five universities in India participated in a regional Peer to Peer (P2P): Challenging Extremism competition throughout the fall 2017 term. After submitting their ideas for how to challenge online hate and extremism in their communities, three teams appealed to an expert panel of judges in the final round of competition, held in New Delhi on January 25, 2018.
The judging panel included NESA alumni, Ambassador Ranjit Gupta, Dr. Geeta Madhavan and Dr. Uttam Kumar Sinha, as well as NESA Distinguished Professor of Practice Manpreet Singh Anand. After hearing recommendations from each finalist team, the judges named the winners as follows:
First place: Acropolis Institute of Technology and Research — Reclaim Internet Project: Flag Extremism, Fight Extremism
Second place: Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University — We are One: Let Us Celebrate the Diversity
Third place: Chandigarh University — Suppressing Terrorism by Enlightening Majority (STEM): #Dare2Care
The top place finishers created a Google Chrome extension, “FLAGIT,” that enables users to reclaim the internet by making informed decisions about content they read online. Internet users who are “tired of helplessly scrolling through hate speech, extremist ideologies and radicalization attempts that distract and obstruct” are invited to “flag” hate speech and other extremist content with the click of a button. That shared data pool of content begins to identify patterns (machine-learning module), eventually resulting in a warning, and redirecting users toward counter-narrative material. Ultimately, an online community of users evolves who alert one another to flagged content, sharing and increasing awareness of hate speech while growing counterspeech efforts. The Reclaim Internet Project held offline events with over 500 attendees, and they used social media to cross-promote their technology, yielding over 100,000 impressions on Facebook alone.
BGSBU’s We Are One campaign aimed to generate an interfaith dialogue through ongoing discussions and debates to counter the narrative of religious extremism. A series of events organized by the team — workshops, symposiums, debates, street plays, storytelling and drawing — did just that. By championing the “idea of oneness despite religious, cultural, and social differences,” the team further called on its event attendees and social media followers to “celebrate” diversity, not use it as a force to divide youth, those most particularly vulnerable to hate speech on social media, according to the team’s research. Most promising among the measures of effectiveness for the team were its pre- and post-survey results, indicating a positive shift in perception that aligned with the team’s goals.
According to the team from Chandigarh University, one of the major threats facing young Indian people is radicalization by extremists through social media. Extremists prey on the vulnerabilities of youth and provide them a lucrative alternative that is extremely attractive in the short run. The focus of their STEM campaign was to prevent this false propaganda, thus their acronym for Suppressing Terrorism by Enlightening the Majority. The team conducted a large number of activities with over 600 elementary school students, including a panel called, “Social media as a tool for radicalization.” Social media integration was also key to cross-promoting the team’s offline events and other campaign goals, with over 1.2 million impressions on Facebook.
Read more information about the EdVenture Partners Peer to Peer programs.
Photo credit: NESA