Breakout Session 1 of the 8th UNAOC Global Forum focused on digital diplomacy, online citizen engagement, and social media platforms as mechanisms for prevention and countering online hate speech.

The session was moderated by Ezzat Ibrahim, Editor in Chief of the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly, and included the following panelists: Naila Hamdy, Ph.D., Professor of Journalism at the American University in Cairo; Nancy Groves, Head of Social Media at the UN Department of Public Information (DPI); Errin Whack, National Writer, Race and Ethnicity at Associated Press; Ian Plunkett, Head of Public Policy Communications at Twitter and UNAOC Fellowship Alumnus; and Maha Jaafar, Ambassador of YouTube’s Creator for Change initiative.

Ian Plunkett of Twitter talked about the importance of elevating the voices of UN organizations, such as UNAOC, as well as that of NGOs, journalists, and other credible voices, by training them on ways to be more active and present on social media, so that they can build their own narratives. He also said that, while anonymity on certain social media platforms is conducive to hate speech, it has also allowed people living in countries with limited freedoms to find a voice and speak their minds without repercussions.

Dr. Hamdy of the American University in Cairo, talked about her work developing the “Glossary of Hate Speech in Egyptian Media” to help journalists identify hate speech and deal ethically with dangerous words and images, while Nancy Groves of UN DPI talked about managing the UN global social media presence and the challenges involved in using social media to create counter-narratives in the context of rising hate speech.

Errin Whack of the Associated Press focused on the role of journalists in calling out hate speech and the challenges of finding a balance between reporting on hate speech while avoiding fueling hatred. She also talked about being a journalist in the age of the Internet, and how receiving attacks online has become commonplace for most journalists.

Finally, Maha Jaafar, an ambassador of YouTube’s Creator for Change initiative, talked about how, through her videos, she endeavors to amplify the voices of love, tolerance, and peace, as a way to counter online hate speech. During the session, she played one of her videos to illustrate her remarks.

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