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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchSocial media: A tool for peace or conflict?

Social media: A tool for peace or conflict?

Author: Dr Simone Bunse

Affiliation: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

Organization/Publisher: SIPRI

Date/Place: August 20, 2021 / Stockholm, Sweden

Type of Literature: Analysis

Word Count: 2400


Keywords: Social media, peace, conflict, peace building, development, violence, manipulation\


This piece analyzes how social media has emerged as a space where both conflict and peace building are shaping narratives. The author suggests to utilize this tool for better purposes with enhanced speed and real time dissemination of information to challenge elements that fuel the fire or intensify the conflicts. It looks at how the use of social media in a conflict can cause damage to a region, for example in the case of Nigeria’s Boko Haram. Peace builders identify and map conflict actors, tracing the links between them and their local support networks. Such fast-track response has allowed the parties to the Nigerian conflict to improve its understanding of how Boko Haram has used social media for its messaging for more than a decade now. This analysis stresses on the techniques of “early warning” and “real time reach out” to basic causes followed by “counter messaging.” The author argues that social media has been “used to suppress internal dissent, meddle in democratic elections, incite armed violence, recruit members of terrorist organizations or contribute to crimes against humanity” such as in the case of the Rohingya in Myanmar. The author recommends that policymakers should implement more “effective oversight and data management guidelines to stem systematic disinformation campaigns.” It suggests that the social media platforms should look inwards and redesign their tools to “prevent them from being employed toward harmful political ends and from favoring conflict over consensus.” It also reflects on the role of civil society groups to demand from social media giants the information they collect about their users and “how it is used and by whom.” The analysis also focuses on collaboration between social media giants and human rights bodies and the need to start funds to compensate those wrongfully victimized on social media.

By: Riyaz ul Khaliq, CIGA Non-Resident Research Associate



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