Under its project on countering online disinformation and hate speech in the MENA region Words Matter/الكلمة تفرق, Democracy Reporting International (DRI) held a 3-day event in Amman from 4 to 6 March 2022. After one year of online collaboration, this was the first in-person event, bringing together partners from Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Sudan.
The workshop was an opportunity to present projects, confront approaches, compare methodologies, and create cross-country linkages, among five different partners, all of which have recently launched initiatives to monitor social media during key political processes.
An entire day was dedicated to analysing contexts, identifying similarities, and exploring how this work can converge towards a regional evidence-based network.
“We clustered partners based on the common aspects of their local contexts and what processes they are monitoring. It is important to know how partners could collaborate with each other in the future”, said Wafaa Heikal, Social Media Analyst at DRI.
A significant amount of time was dedicated to the technical issues involving social media monitoring, an opportunity for partners to share experiences, concerns and the main challenges faced in their monitoring. These were addressed in the open clinic, Q&A and group activities. They also gave their feedback on using DRI’s Digital Democracy Monitor Toolkit, guidelines developed by the organisation to help civil society, journalists, researchers and anyone trying to research social media and democracy. Partners discussed how the toolkit integrated with their own methodologies.
“We launched the project, and we are moving forward. Initial monitoring helped us refine our work methodology and identify misinformation, elections, violence against women methodologies […]. We used several tools. We need to make adjustments.”, said Hussein Al Sharif, Programme Coordinator at Maharat Foundation, Lebanon.
A full session was dedicated to online safety and security. It was delivered by the Jordan Open Source Association (JOSA), one of the leading organisations in promoting digital rights and cyber security, presenting their experience on what sort of data needs protection, where to protect it and how.
For a session on advocacy and campaigning on digital and social media issues, DRI invited SMEX, a Lebanese NGO active regionally to advance digital rights through research, campaigns, and advocacy.
The dynamics developed during these exchanges will be preserved in DRI’s future activities. Partners will continue their work to produce data-driven monitoring in their local contexts. Thanks to the monitoring, the consortium will be able to contribute evidence-based recommendations to regional decision-makers and social media platforms for a healthier online environment, less prone to anti-democratic manipulation.
- Al Hayat Center - RASED – Jordan
- Institut de Presse et des Sciences de l’Information (IPSI) – Tunisia
- Maharat Foundation – Lebanon
- Association réseau Mourakiboun – Tunisia
- Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA) – Sudan