Revealing Hate, Tracking Rumors and Ethical PeaceTech

We’ve been busy and productive at JustPeace Labs these past few months! We are hard at work on a program to overcome hate crimes in the US, have partnered with a Build Up Fellow on developing an app in Myanamar, and published draft guidelines on Ethical Peace Tech. Here’s what we’ve been up to.

Tracking Hate Crimes in the United States

There has been a recent spike in hate crimes reported in the United States. According to the FBI, there was an overall increase in hate crimes in the US in 2015, including an alarming 67% increase in hate crimes against Muslims and a surge in attacks against transgender people. However, there is a severe shortage of data about hate crimes.

Hate crimes threaten the safety of our families and the fabric of our communities. Hatred and division in communities can also lead to violent conflict, crimes against humanity and human rights violations. This is not to suggest that this that could or would happen in the US, but experiences around the world demonstrate that small ruptures in the fabric of our society can grow exponentially and violently, seemingly overnight.

To address these challenges, we developed HateTracker, a web-based app for tracking and reporting hate incidents. Using HateTracker, anyone can securely report information and submit photos or recordings of hate incidents they experience or witness.

With the data gathered by HateTracker, we will be able to identify when, where and how hate incidents are being committed. Knowledge is power and with this valuable data, we can take positive action to combat hate incidents in our communities and create a safer, more inclusive and more just society.

Rumor Reporting and Verification in Myanmar

In recent years, Myanmar has experienced a surge in inter-communal violence. This violence is often spurred by rumors, which are frequently untrue. We are proud to be working with Maude Morrison Build Peace Fellow and manager of the Early Warning Early Response (EWER) Program for the Center for Diversity and National Harmony (CDNH) in Myanmar on an app to track and verify rumors.

The app will allow CDNH’s local monitors to report rumors and communal tensions, check and verify rumors reported in other communities and comment on or upload evidence for or against the rumor. It is hoped that the app will foster greater inclusiveness and connections among the network of monitors and help CDNH provide more accurate and timely information to communities stakeholders in Myanmar about the veracity of reported rumors. Ultimately, the app will contribute to reducing potential outbreaks of violence.

Ethical PeaceTech

Besides technology, we’ve been focusing on the ethics of using technology in peacebuilding. Peacebuilders are rapidly turning to technology to augment their work. This raises wide-reaching ethical considerations and concerns regarding the protection of user privacy and security.

Faced with our own ethical challenges, we sought a guide or checklist that would help us navigate the tricky ins and outs of ethical peacetech. We did find some relevant and useful ethical guidelines and good practices (here, here and here, for example). But we didn’t find anything totally on-point—something that focused specifically on the practical needs of peacebuilders working in conflict and post-conflict situations.

So what did we decide to do? Write one ourselves. And at Build Peace this year, we hosted a workshop on Ethical Guidelines for PeaceTech.

Based on consultations with experts in the technology and peacebuilding fields, our Ethical Guidelines for PeaceTech is a practical tool that can be consulted when starting an ICT project in a conflict-sensitive area. Our guidelines include a checklist for practitioners in the field on ethical considerations as well as a list of resources they can turn to on ethics and security.

We’re currently getting feedback and input from security and ethics experts, and next year look forward to releasing a final version!

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