Preventing youth violence through ICTs

13 Nov 2018 11:45h - 13:15h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 13th Internet Governance Forum]

Why and how is the youth engaging in online violence, and what makes them take that violence to the offline world? The need for a counter-narrative provided to, and produced by, youth is evidently needed. Empowering youth to fight for their freedom of expression, privacy, and human rights is what will make them engage in creating positive narratives, and keep them away from violence extremism.

Mr Andrés Morales, Programme Specialist, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), moderated the session. Morales invited speakers to share recommendations and opportunities for policies, in order to find solutions in information and communication technology (ICT) tools to protect human rights, freedom of expression, and privacy.

Ms Adriana Erthal Abdenur, Peace and Security Coordinator, Igarape Institute, spoke about the ‘Shining light on the violence in Latin America’ analysis. Findings say that:

  • the geographic and special distribution of the patterns of violence are not homogeneous throughout the region;
  • discourses of discrimination and hate are becoming normalised which helps develop new patterns of violence, including those against vulnerable groups; and
  • the problem lies in weak institutions and corruption within the police force.

The manifestations in cyber space are seen in the shape of narcotics selling, money laundering, extortion, recruitment of youth for illegal crime in organisations. Use of the deep web is cross cutting all of these issues. To conclude, Abdenur said since the ‘wave of conservatism is coming’ tech platforms are being used for surveillance and criminalisation of activists and other active individuals online, but ‘mostly youth’.

Ms Sara Fratti, Digital Rights Consultant, Fundación Avina, noted that we should not think a priori that ICTs and the Internet will change lives or help prevent violence. She noted that digital gaps are big, especially when it comes to young women and young indigenous communities. ‘Gangs are recruiting youth in Latin America via social media’, Examples are found on Facebook, Twitter, and dating apps. She mentioned issues such are slavery, sexual trafficking, and paid killers. The app Siccario lures people to kill those who refuse to pay extortion, for ten USD. She underlined that criminal organisations are adapting fast to the technology. She concluded by saying that there is a lack of education at the moment which needs to be addressed before developing capacities related to digital technologies.

Ms Kaaby Nour, Executive Director, Jamaity, Net-Med Youth project, said that young people are looking for opportunities to express themselves and exchange online. The general problem is lack of participation, which is where the link between youth and violence is. When it comes to recent revolutions, such as the one in Tunisia, cyber-activism played a big role. Civil society organisations, bloggers, and the open source community play an important role when it comes to promoting messages. Noun pointed out 4 components when it comes to approaching young people through ICT: general communication, recruiting, intimidation of people, communication specifically about their actions

Ms Divina Frau-Meigs, Professor, Sorbonne Nouvelle University, spoke about the ‘Être et devenir’ (To be and to become) research project which helps the invisibility problem. The research showed that a lot of other research today is based on extremist religions and extreme left politics. Frau-Meigs noted that extremists are ‘particularly dangerous because they are on the online media’, posting multiple videos of violent killings. They insist on the narrative of brutality, mercy, victimhood, war, belonging, nostalgia and utopianism. Education and participation need to be put of the agenda, as well as producing counter-narratives to what young people are hearing. ‘Young people want to engage with something to fight for.’ She concluded by saying that it is important to empower and enable your people to speak through creation of online content that will send messages of love, peace, and integration – different positive examples which other will follow.

Ms Juliana Nolasco, Public Policy Manager, Google Brazil, said that Google as a company believes that the Internet has enhanced the capacity to learn things and be heard. In cases of offensive or controversial content content policies have been developed, which show responsible lines about what content is or is not allowed on their platforms. There are two  Google practices which address the counter-speech issue:

  1. A YouTube worldwide program that encourages youth and creators to produce good counter-speech narratives.  
  2. ‘Safer Lab’, which works with a thousand teens and young people trying to empower and protect youth through current narratives.

Nolasco concluded by saying youth needs to be encouraged to share with care, not to fall for fake content, and how to be responsible about the content they access. ‘We believe we should empower our youth to be successful online.’


By Aida Mahmutović