A sub regional conference confronting disinformation and hate speech on Wednesday commenced in the Liberian Capital, Monrovia.
The three-day conference, organized by the National Democratic Institute, assembled member organizations from the Central and West African regions.
Participating organizations at the conference include the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), and Innovation Lab Liberia (iLab Liberia), as well as organizations from Burkina Faso, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Among other things, delegates are expected to derive a collective approach that would foster and enhance information sharing across member organizations.
Influencers and amplifiers with political or nefarious backing have consistently used disinformation and hate speech as tools to undermine information integrity, including electoral and democratic systems across the region. Delegates attending the conference are expected to identify ways to tackle these vices.
From July 27-29, 2023, they will examine how disinformation and hate speech undermine the electoral process, and how civil society and media organizations can analyze the electoral environment and take action to address threats to electoral integrity in their respective countries.
Discussions at the high-level regional meeting will be the first of its kind to be held in Liberia; they will also focus on tactics common in harmful information campaigns in the region and carefully examine obstacles in combating them.
Among other things, representatives at the conference will also deliberate on tools and methodologies for overcoming challenges and monitoring the online space, and attending organizations will present their own achievements and case studies regarding online monitoring and reporting across the region.
The conference will also consider how disinformation and hate speech are used to target women and other marginalized communities, exacerbate religious, ethnic, and regional divides; and undermine citizens’ confidence in elections and democratic processes.
“NDI, in partnership with the Government of Canada, is pleased to support this convening of regional groups who work on countering disinformation and hate speech, especially in the lead-up to elections, when tensions can be high and swift reactions to dangerous content can have an immediate positive impact. We are looking forward to three days of engaging conversations and brainstorming on the most effective approaches to counter information manipulation and hate speech in West Africa. ~ Zoe Hartman, Program Manager, National Democratic Institute.”
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms, and values to secure a better quality of life for all.
NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all. With funding from the Government of Canada, NDI and partners are currently implementing projects in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia to counter disinformation and misinformation during electoral periods.
The initiatives are largely meant to improve information integrity and reinforce the credibility of electoral and democratic systems across these nations.