UNESCO and the European Union are launching a new project entitled ‘Social Media for Peace’ to strengthen the resilience of civil society to potential harmful content spread online, in particular hate speech inciting to violence, while enhancing the promotion of peace through digital technologies, notably social media.
The new project will last for 36 months and is funded by the EU Instrument Contributing to Peace and Stability to the height of €3 M, and involve tree pilot countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Indonesia and Kenya.
As the UN Agency with the mandate to promote and protect freedom of expression, UNESCO will rely on its convening power to bring together major relevant stakeholders to pilot a dialogue gathering among others, representatives of social media platforms, of national authorities, of civil society organizations promoting freedom of expression, conflict prevention and peace building organization and conflict-affected communities.
UNESCO Deputy Director General, Xing Qu said, “UNESCO is extremely proud to launch this new innovative project with the European Union. The role and power of social media and ICTs in shaping social and political changes have come under increased scrutiny, in particular their misuse to polarize society, manipulate and amplify disinformation or to increase intolerance and even fuel conflicts and hate. With this project, I want to address these threats and at the same time harness the potential of social media and new technologies for peace and human rights, in particular freedom of expression.”
The project will in a first phase enhance the understanding of the root causes, scale and impact of harmful content and of the effectiveness of the tools to address it in the three pilot countries. Building on that, then project will then work to improve the curbing of such harmful content in respect of the international standards on freedom of expression. Moreover, in cooperation with media, fact checkers and civil society representatives, the project will enhance the promotion and support of peace building narratives and initiatives through digital technologies and social media.
Head of UNESCO Antenna in Sarajevo, Sinisa Sesum said, “It is our hope that lessons learnt at country level will have an impact at global level. By increasing knowledge, raising awareness and building capacities of relevant stakeholders on the most effective ways to promote and guarantee freedom of expression while responding to harmful content online, we anticipate that knowledge and skills generated will be disseminated across various regions and countries.”
This new project is aligned with UNESCO’s overall strategy to combat disinformation by fostering the information as a public good and strengthening the transparency of the internet ecosystem. In that respect, the project will benefit from the lessons learnt of another EU-funded Project #CoronavirusFacts which leverages the pivotal role of freedom of expression and access to information to address information needs in times of COVID-19 and to tackle the massive wave of disinformation related to the pandemic.
The Social Media for Peace project will also contribute to the achievement of SDG 16, to promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies and to the UN Plan of Action on Hate Speech launched by UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez to combat the online disturbing groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance.