‘Dangerous Speech,’ a subcategory of hate speech, first coined and defined by Benesch (2013), is speech or another form of expression that has a reasonable chance of catalyzing or amplifying violence by one group against another. Our Umati Project has been especially interested in Dangerous Speech since the inception of the project last September, only months away from the date of Kenya’s first elections since the post-election violence of 2007-8. Renewed violence was widely feared, but documentation of inflammatory speech online was lacking, due to scant monitoring in 2007/8.
Therefore over a year ago, the research arm of the iHub partnered with Ushahidi to create “Umati,” a new media monitoring project that developed a systematic process to collect and categorize online hate speech. With support from partners including MacArthur Foundation, USAID, and Internews, the project has run for a full year, over which period Umati has not only designed a unique methodology for collecting and categorizing online speech, we have also developed the largest database of hate speech from one country to date (6,600+ incidents).
Over the past 2 months, one of the Umati monitors has been assigned to specifically look attwo pertinent issues in Kenya: devolution, a cornerstone for governance in the country, and the ongoing trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the Kenyan President, his deputy and a radio journalist. We have looked at understanding the online discussions around these two topics and the kinds of conversations they have sparked online. Content was also analyzed to determine the level of hate (and dangerous) speech contained.
Today, iHub Research releases a brief based on the 2 months of monitoring of online discussions around the ICC cases and devolution in Kenya.
Our work found that mainstream media remains central in the online coverage of the implementation of devolution in Kenya and the ICC cases, and Kenyan citizens heavily rely on mainstream media as a news and information source. As such, it is crucial that the mainstream media players responsibility provide facts and statistics, as well as critical analysis of the important and emerging issues, within a wider context that the public can make sense of, all to ensure that the public remains focused on pertinent issues and is well informed. Even in this age of citizen journalism, mainstream media journalists continue have an important role in strengthening public dialogue, and providing citizens with clear analysis of the issues from an unbiased perspective. That said, citizens should not just be passive consumers of media content. Given the various tools available to engage with, create and consume new content, citizens also have a responsibility to understand relevant topics, and contribute to the discussions.
The next Umati report, looking at levels of online hate speech since the elections, will be released later this month (November 2013).