The role of online/social media in countering violent extremism in East Africa

Question

What is the role for online/social media for countering violent extremism in East Africa?

Summary

There is growing recognition amongst academics and policy makers that de-radicalisation and countering violent extremism programmes can be a more effective way of tackling extremism than purely militaristic approaches. Online and social media are useful in the dissemination of counter narratives in multiple languages, and to reach a broad, geographically diverse audience.  The evidence base for the use of online/social media in countering violent extremism in East Africa is limited with few empirical studies that explore the impact of either online/social media campaigns or counter narratives.

  • Online CVE programmes are routinely divided into positive and negative measures. Positive CVE strategies produce counter-content that seeks to challenge extremist narratives and propaganda, while negative CVE strategies are designed to block, filter, take-down or censor extremist content.
  • The appropriateness of the content of the message, who delivers it and how it is delivered to the target audience are essential to the effectiveness of implementing online counter-narratives.
  • Despite a limited evidence base, various organisations are seeking to utilise online/social media to counter violent extremism. Beyond traditional platforms such as radio, these organisations have found that strategies should include using social media and peer-to-peer communication such as WhatsApp where appropriate, particularly when targeting youth vulnerable to radicalisation.

This report includes brief regional examples from Uganda and Kenya, and other case studies from CVE initiatives in the UK and elsewhere using online/social media.

Suggested citation

Avis, W. (2016). The role of online/social media in countering violent extremism in East Africa (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1,380). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.