Introduction and Background
The online media is being increasingly used for hate campaigns to spread misinformation aimed to create distrust and alienation between different communities that result in hostilities and lead to violence. This phenomenon is becoming rampant across the world and is a major cause for motivating youth to adopt fanatic ideologies and take to violent and extremist actions.
All communities and sections all over the world seem to be getting afflicted by this phenomenon of online indoctrination leading to increasing fanatic perspectives and actions by individuals and groups that are becoming organised and showing a swell both in terms of their numbers and their propensity to violence.
However, there are many persons from youth, civil society, journalism, religious groups and computer professional etc. who are concerned by this growing phenomenon of misuse of social media spaces for fanatic indoctrination, are well versed with facts and can ideologically counter the hate campaigns but are unable to respond appropriately due to their technical limitations in use of social media and absence of a platform for action.
COFI- DLIT Trainings, Partners and Networks
The COFI- Networks (Countering Online Fanatic Indoctrination- Networks) Program, with Secretariat in COVA, aims to enlist persons from different fields well versed in religious and social issues with progressive ideologies as Partners. Subsequently, Digital Literacy and Intervention Techniques (DLIT) Training Programs will be organised to provide them technical skills and ability in handling a range of social media platforms (like Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Emails, Blogs, Google Search etc) through Boot Camps.
These will be followed by more specialized TechCamps to impart required ability to develop appropriate Tools and Apps to use social media to address the problems they face in their work of growing mistrust and antagonism between different communities in their areas of operation.
Equipped with the required technical skills in handling social media, these persons will then be able to effectively counter online hate propaganda (against different religious groups and communities) in social and mainstream media spaces both as individuals and also through organized groups.
COFI (Countering Online Fanatic Indoctrination) Networks will be formed in different cities and countries with a membership of about 30 to 50 Partners in each city / country network after a DLIT Training Program is organized. All individual networks in different cities and countries will be linked through different social media platforms like websites, dedicated Facebook Groups, Google Hangout and Google Groups etc. to form a collective network. The countries proposed to be covered in Phase I will be: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore and Sri Lanka. It is hoped to extend the program to cover other countries subsequently.
Requirements to Become Partners
Persons from the fields of religions, civil society organizations, journalism, social media, activists, concerned citizens and youth with progressive perspectives and who have demonstrated active engagement with countering hate propaganda, attempts at polarization and social violence to promote understanding, peace and justice in their societies will be identified and enlisted as Partners of the COFI Networks. Partners will be enlisted from all religious / ideological persuasions viz. Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and atheists etc. Care will be taken to ensure gender parity and sufficient representation of youth.
All Partners will be given systematic orientation and training on a regular basis in using social media in all its forms with ease and expertise through Facebook, E Learning Portals and other platforms including DLIT Training Programs. These Partners in each location will be expected to sustain the process of using social media to counter online hate campaigns, indoctrination by fanatic groups and promotion of understanding and peace in their societies. The Partners are expected to identify and enlist other committed persons from their areas to expand the network and gain leverage in countering spread of disinformation and hate.
Launch of COFI Networks
COFI Networks was launched in Hyderabad, India with a Three Day TechCamp from 27th to 29th November 2017. In all 33 Participants from 7 countries and 16 from 6 cities of India participated. There were 5 trainers from 4 countries and 6 trainers from India who conducted the proceedings. The countries represented at the Hyderabad TechCamp were: India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Kazakistan, Romania and USA. Representatives from 5 cities (Hyderabad, Mumbai, Banguluru, Delhi andLucknow) and the State of Assam attended the TechCamp from within India.
An Anchor Team will be constituted for each of the COFI Networks to be formed in different countries / cities. Partners who have attended a TechCamp and are committed to engage in initiatives to counter online hate campaigns and promote understanding and peace will be encouraged to start a COFI Network in their city / country and become Anchor Members. The Anchor Members will be the Managing Body of the concerned COFI Network and will determine the number of Anchor Members and other Members who can be inducted and modalities of functioning and activities. Five to ten Anchor Members and another 40 to 50
Partners of a COFI Network can keep the Network alive, active and aim at impactful presence in social media and contribute to positive perspective building.
Formation of COFI Networks:
It is proposed to form 15 COFI networks in 10 countries of South Asia and Far East by end of 2017. With an average of 30 Members to begin with, the COFI networks collectively may have around 500 active Partners and the number could increase with time.
Provide digital literacy to youth and civil society organizations, faith leaders, media personal and social media experts and equip them to develop Tools and APPs to counter digital and online hate campaigns and indoctrination that is leading to spread of divisive ideologies and recruitment of youth for extremism;
Build networks between like-minded individuals and organizations across different faiths and countries in South and South East Asia to counter online indoctrination by fanatic groups and promote peace and justice in their societies.
1. COFI Website:(Under preparation) will provide a common platform for all COFI Networks across different cities and countries to connect, share information, engage in discussions and plan/ facilitate collaborative activities etc. Will be available in different languages and will provide facilities for mass mailing and archives.
2. E- Learning Platform: Integrated with the COFI website, will provide interactive tutorials and learning opportunities to master social media and its application- especially to counter online hate campaigns and counter radicalisation along with promotion of peace.
3. COFI Newsletter: A Multimedia compilation with text, audio and video content to be broadcasted fortnightly. Content could comprise of writings of COFI Partners from different countries both current and from yesteryears that still have their relevance. Selected writings, audios and videos from other sources will be included along with mechanism for feedback and discussions through COFI website.
Expected Outreach for the Newsletter: COVA has an outreach to over 35,000 persons from across the world through its Peace Updates Group. Members of COVA collectively have over 10,000 friends on Facebook and connections with over 50 groups with an outreach of over 100 thousand (an average of 2000 per group). Added to this will be the social media connects and followings of about 500 COFI Contributing Partners. With such a range, any COFI Post can have an outreach to at least 100 thousand people through various social media platforms. Hence, Contributing Members of COFI Network can expect a reach to over 100 thousand persons for any of their posts and further broadcast if their post is found interesting to even reach viral proportions in some cases.
Please Click Here to enlist as contributor to COFI Newsletter
4. Connecting Bubbles: Facilitating Conversations Across Perspectives
COVA is exploring the possibility of organising public meetings wherein eminent personalities espousing opposing perspectives on different social and political issues will be invited to share the same platform and debate. It is hoped that such exercises could enable people to gain an overview of differing perspectives on same issues and decide for themselves after hearing different versions. This could also help in bringing out the reasons and logic behind the perspective of the “Other” and could lead oneself to critically evaluate one’s own thinking and beliefs to arrive at more substantiated and holistic understanding of issues and be more tolerant about the different perspectives encountered. All COFI networks will be encouraged to organise programs to Connect Bubbles in their areas of operation to promote better understanding. Some of these programs will be made available on E-Learning Platform also.
Suggested Activities of COFI Networks
1. Organise DLIT Training Programs and TechCamps in their Cities / Countries to provide orientation and mastery of use of social media to Partners to create a Resource Pool of persons who will be able to counter online hate campaigns, prevent fanaticism and promote understanding and peace.
2. Organise periodic meetings in their cities/ countries to orient members of the public (especially youth) to social media and its potential for use and abuse.
3. Formation of Online Social Media Groups of all Partners from different countries and also different specialist fields like religious groups, youth, civil society etc. from among the Partners to share issues of concern and content for broadcast.
4. Facilitate regular Google Hangout Sessions, Facebook, and other Online Interactive and
Offline Sessions between Partners from different countries and locations
5. Active engagement with COFI Online Newsletter by sharing their current and previous writings, audio and video material (with relevance to current period). Also, sharing similar material from others that is powerful and can dispel hate and extremist propaganda and promote better understanding.
6. Sharing appropriate material for posting on the e-Learning Portal to provide wider learning opportunity and content to potential visitors to the Portal.
7. Organising Programs such as “Connecting Bubbles” described above to promote the spirit of dialogue and foster understanding.
8. Enable partners to develop apps and tools that carry content in English and other languages that explicitly counter narratives that are used for negative influence on youth and promote understanding and peace.
9. Sharing ideas for action, proposals and activity reports by Partners.
10. Any other programs and activities that could counter online hate campaigns and facilitate better understanding between different groups and communities and secure peace.
Forth Coming TechCamps in Bangaluru, Mumbai, New Delhi and Dhaka between May and August 2017
Information to enlist for participation in these TechCamps will be shared subsequently
It is hoped that social media groups of COFI-Network Partners formed country wise and as per different specialisations will facilitate sustainability of the program. Partners will also be oriented and encouraged to seek support for their Follow on Programs and Projects from potential resource support organisations.
1COFI Networks = Countering Online Fanatic Indoctrination Networks Being facilitated by COVA in association with US Consulate Hyderabad.
2COVA (Confederation of Voluntary Associations), is a national network of voluntary organisations working for communal harmony in India and peace in South Asia. Address: # 18-13-8/A/508/B, Bandlaguda, Chandrayangutta, Hyderabad- 500 005
E-mail: email@example.com; URL: www.covanetwork.org
For more information:
India Ph: +91- 9394544244