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Alumni News

News from and about MPI Alumni

Peacebuilding in the Digital Age

Peacebuilding in the Digital Age

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As the pandemic forced us into social distancing, and at times, even social isolation, many of us turned to the online world for our work, our day-to-day communication, and as a way to stay connected. We have done this through various platforms, including email, text messaging, online conferencing programs, and perhaps more than any other, social media. In doing so, we confronted the reality that has existed long before the pandemic that social media is both a blessing and a curse. It is a platform that has allowed us to stay connected to friends and families, sharing with them stories, photos, and videos so that we can maintain the shared memories that would otherwise be lost. At the same time, it has accelerated conflict and amplified divisions, particularly due to the inability of these platforms to prevent misinformation or intentional disinformation.

In this issue of our newsletter, we are sharing with you the experiences of three alumni with social media and the common thread of hate speech being woven through their stories. Kisuke Ndiku writes of the ongoing conflicts in Africa and how social media has both exacerbated these conflicts as well as provided a space for those who wish to help mitigate the conflicts, especially the African Diaspora. Chris Alu from the Solomon Islands shares how social media is disrupting the local culture and has played a mostly negative role in the recent crisis there. Finally, we read about social media being a place for peacebuilders to advocate for their work, the rights of women, and media, but even that online space is shrinking.

MPI recognizes this online sphere as one with which we must be concerned as much as we have been with the conflicts that occur in the communities, countries, and regions in which we live and work. As the Noble Prize-winning Philippine journalist Maria Ressa said in her acceptance speech, “What happens on social media doesn’t stay on social media. Online violence is real-world violence.” To begin to address these concerns, MPI organized an online pilot workshop on digital security for peacebuilders with the Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP) where 26 alumni learned about the basics of secure online communication. MPI will be working with DDP to develop more workshops for peacebuilders interacting in the digital space. MPI is also looking at developing a course on “digital peacebuilding” that will allow participants to explore how online tools and platforms are worsening conflicts and how they can be used to build peace.

In the meantime, MPI will also be looking at its own presence on social media. We plan to reach out to our alumni to seek your opinion. Please feel free to comment here or contact us with your thoughts and ideas. We look forward to hearing more from you in 2022!

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