How Social Media is Feeding Violence in South Sudan

Social Media and Conflict in South Sudan Image: Peace Tech Lab

Social Media and Conflict in South Sudan Image: Peace Tech Lab

Social media contributes to the conflict in South Sudan. During the re:publica in Berlin, activists from South Sudan and abroad described how rumours and hate speech on social media is fueling the violence – see video below.

What I found particularly interesting is the role of indirect social media use. This reminded me very much of what we’ve seen in the Philippines – but in a negative way.

In both cases, people who live in the affected area trust information from outside their area as much or more than local information.

In the Philippines, people living in the area that had been hit by Typhoon Haiyan called their relatives in Manila to find out what was going on. Those relatives frequently got their information from Facebook. In the Philippines, this was largely a positive mechanism.

In the context of the South Sudan conflict, the diaspora is sharing unsubstantiated rumours with their friend and relatives in South Sudan. Some of the recipients of this information give a lot of credence to these rumours precisely because the originate from abroad and there is an assumption that people living outside South Sudan must know more since they have access to more information. As the video shows, these rumours can then trigger violent incidents in South Sudan.

For me, this is another example that shows that we are not doing enough to include the diasporas into our communications strategies.

(Unfortunately, the video cuts off mid-sentence, so I’m afraid a lot of the really interesting discussion is lost. Also: the intro is really long and I’d recommend that you scroll until 08:00 min.)

You can find out more information about the PeaceTech Lab Project on Social Media in South Sudan here and on the website of #DefyHateNow.