Handling Harmful Content Online: Cross-National Perspectives of Users Affected by Conflict
Search for Common Ground undertook a study to examine how users in conflict-affected societies handle harmful content online, and to identify barriers that they face in using existing mechanisms such as content reporting to make their online spaces safer. The study was possible with financial support from Facebook.
the authors spoke to 68 individuals in seven countries across four regions: the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras), East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania), Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan), and Southeast Asia (Myanmar).
The study found that the worst violent content, and most effective responses to it, appear in private groups and messages. Users, including direct participants in violence and active resistors of violence want to make their online spaces safer. However, current strategies that these users favor in tackling harmful content do not address the underlying stress and grievances. The report proposes that if we are to make online spaces safer for people, particularly those who live in conflict-settings – multi-stakeholder engagement is key. There are several recommendations that the report puts forth to drive collective efforts in understanding and proposing root causes of conflict dynamics, instead of just relying on existing mechanisms as the ultimate solution.