Virtual Lecture – Mediating Online Spaces: How Social Media Affects Peace Processes and What Can Be Done About It

Wednesday 23 February 2022, 10:00 am – 11:00 am EST, online (Washington DC, USA)


Mediators have long talked about ‘social media as a threat to peace processes.’ But they have often done so in vague terms, viewing social media as an external threat that can be avoided or ignored. This chapter will clarify how social media threatens peace processes, and suggest a novel approach for overcoming that threat. To date, most approaches to social media and conflict have focused on minimizing the consumption of harmful information (e.g., content moderation and media literacy), or the distribution of that information (e.g., platform policies such as labelling of misinformation). Few efforts have sought to tackle the production of harmful information before it is shared online (e.g., the problem at source). This chapter will explore how mediation practice could help address this challenge head on, by forging peace agreements that address online behaviour. What would it look like if governments or armed groups agreed not to act in certain ways online? Do such agreements already exist? What are some of the key challenges of this work? In addressing these questions, the chapter explores how mediators could help set new norms for what behavior and content is acceptable in conflict settings, all while balancing the protection of free speech with threats to peace.


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