Crowdsourcing and rumour: The double-edged sword of ICTs in conflict situations

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  • First of all we are going to start with an ICT experiment which will involve some audience participation. But don't worry, there aren't any speaking parts! I'm going to refer to the changing ICT landscape, look at the birth and spread of crowdsourcing with particular reference to Ushahidi in Kenya Assessment of crowdsourcing - ever-present tension between more user-generated content and verification Mobile phones Complexity and convergence of all ICTs    
  • Most of us have spent two days sitting down, so it's now time for some exercise. I think it is appropriate for us to conduct a little experiment to see what types of media consume and see how tech-savvy you are. Put your right hand on your head if you have listened to the radio/watched TV today. Put your left hand on your head if you have checked news online today.  Turn round if you have tweeted/checked your Facebook account today.  Stand on one leg if you have received/sent a text message today.
  • Rapid growth of mobile phone sector in Africa, which Jonathan mentioned yesterday. Penetration rates of one-third across Africa.  Increasing expansion, admittedly from a low base, of broadband internet - SeaCom in East Africa.  High-speed internet access came to East Africa last year with the arrival of SeaCom's fibre-optic cable.   Impact from traditional media  - one to many - to social networking   Represents a fundamental shift  
  • Aggregation of information submitted by the crowd.  Ushahidi - testimony in Swahili Context:Results contested by opposition leader Raila Odinga, and observers raised objections about fraud. Incumbent Mwai Kibaki was sworn in as president on 30 December three days after the election. Live broadcasts were banned and within hours areas of Kibera were ablaze. Ensuing violence Kenyan lawyer Ory Okolloh was appalled by the violence and lack of information and she turned to the online community for assistance. She wrote on her blog, Kenyan Pundit: "For the reconciliation process to occur at the local level the truth of what happened will first have to come out. Guys looking to do something - any techies out there willing to do a mash-up of where the violence and destruction is occurring using Google maps?   Overwhelmed by response. Combination of information and development know-how enabled the creation of the site.     Real-time, map-based view Submission via email/verification  
  • Variety of reports Some verified, others not
  • Event data analysis by Patrick Meier, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. One-third of news reports and citizen journalists did not include specific locations.  Advantages of Ushahidi - location always given, covered wider geographical area than others, Ushahidi reports documented an important number of violent events not reported by mainstream media and citizen journalists. Democratising information in censorsed environment Truth emerges Lack of local awareness. Internet penetration of 7 per cent. Limited impact. No communication campaign was designed to help people learn about the platform.     Ironically, also a benefit as she said this meant no-one tried to shut us down.   Dynamic innovation has taken the online community by storm.     
  • Platform adapted for different situations. War on Gaza Ushahidi platform known as 'bounded' crowdsourcing. Only Al-Jazeera journalists were allowed to post.
  • Authorities can fabricate reports/events, but this is not easy because of diversity of sources.  If staging a pro-government rally would need a group of people, photographers, tweeters, many different sources to give it any credibility as otherwise just would be dismissed.  Patrick Meier said: "Falsifying crowdsourced information can actually be a pain."  "Information blockades are likely to join the Berlin Walls of history." Anonymity protects people, but also undermines credibility. After the disputed election in Ethiopia in 2005 an Ethiopian blogger wrote: "Anonymous blogging and comment give people the licence to be gratuitously offensive without being accountable. Hate speech and personal attacks abound. Scepticism, restraint and verification, all impotant values of proper deliberation, are sometimes in short supply."   Importance of context. Ethan Zuckerman, cofounder of Global Voices, said citizens' media works best in moderately repressive nations, not well in highly repressive nations and only to a limited degree in contries with no repression. 
  • SwiftRiver - verification of data. Stitching together different reports - Tweets, photos etc. Disseminating data - two-way process. Users can subscribe to specific location alerts via Ushahidi. 'Crowdfeeding' as well as 'crowdsourcing.'
  • Crowdsourcing: Ushahidi Verification of reports: Trade-off between authoritativeness of information and timeliness Mobile phones: Variously described as a “weapon of war” or “lifelines” Interaction of ICTs   Linus Gitahi, chief executive of the Nation Media Group, publishers of The Daily Nation, emphasised falsity of text messages and established hotline for information, but largely unsuccessful.  Mobile operatior Safaricom sent messages urging calm and warned of possible prosecution if messages likely to cause public unrest were sent.
  • Mobile phone company manager in post-conflict Liberia planned to remove free calls in evening and provoked a strong backlash as customers said they were most likely to have to make free emergency calls in the evenings. Télécoms Sans Frontières set up in 1988 following a mercy mission to Kurdistan in 1998. Recognised demand for communications among refugees. Communication is a tool for accessing social capital.    Emergency communications support is part of almost every humanitarian response effort after natural disasters/conflict.
  • Crowdsourcing and mobiles supplement existing media. They widen and diversify information and offer unmediated perspectives.    New media does not replace traditional media.   Traditional media players are also prominent in new media environment. BBC received 4,000 texts during post-election crisis in Kenya.   Read Guardian leader article about tweeting.   As ICT experiment showed earlier, we all consume multiple forms of media simultaneously. Some have more of an impact than others - i.e. text messages are more personal and intrusive than checking news online.    
  • First of all we are going to start with an ICT experiment which will involve some audience participation. But don't worry, there aren't any speaking parts! I'm going to refer to the changing ICT landscape, look at the birth and spread of crowdsourcing with particular reference to Ushahidi in Kenya Assessment of crowdsourcing - ever-present tension between more user-generated content and verification Mobile phones Complexity and convergence of all ICTs    
  • Most of us have spent two days sitting down, so it's now time for some exercise. I think it is appropriate for us to conduct a little experiment to see what types of media consume and see how tech-savvy you are. Put your right hand on your head if you have listened to the radio/watched TV today. Put your left hand on your head if you have checked news online today.  Turn round if you have tweeted/checked your Facebook account today.  Stand on one leg if you have received/sent a text message today.
  • Rapid growth of mobile phone sector in Africa, which Jonathan mentioned yesterday. Penetration rates of one-third across Africa.  Increasing expansion, admittedly from a low base, of broadband internet - SeaCom in East Africa.  High-speed internet access came to East Africa last year with the arrival of SeaCom's fibre-optic cable.   Impact from traditional media  - one to many - to social networking   Represents a fundamental shift  
  • Aggregation of information submitted by the crowd.  Ushahidi - testimony in Swahili Context:Results contested by opposition leader Raila Odinga, and observers raised objections about fraud. Incumbent Mwai Kibaki was sworn in as president on 30 December three days after the election. Live broadcasts were banned and within hours areas of Kibera were ablaze. Ensuing violence Kenyan lawyer Ory Okolloh was appalled by the violence and lack of information and she turned to the online community for assistance. She wrote on her blog, Kenyan Pundit: "For the reconciliation process to occur at the local level the truth of what happened will first have to come out. Guys looking to do something - any techies out there willing to do a mash-up of where the violence and destruction is occurring using Google maps?   Overwhelmed by response. Combination of information and development know-how enabled the creation of the site.     Real-time, map-based view Submission via email/verification  
  • Variety of reports Some verified, others not
  • Event data analysis by Patrick Meier, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. One-third of news reports and citizen journalists did not include specific locations.  Advantages of Ushahidi - location always given, covered wider geographical area than others, Ushahidi reports documented an important number of violent events not reported by mainstream media and citizen journalists. Democratising information in censorsed environment Truth emerges Lack of local awareness. Internet penetration of 7 per cent. Limited impact. No communication campaign was designed to help people learn about the platform.     Ironically, also a benefit as she said this meant no-one tried to shut us down.   Dynamic innovation has taken the online community by storm.     
  • Platform adapted for different situations. War on Gaza Ushahidi platform known as 'bounded' crowdsourcing. Only Al-Jazeera journalists were allowed to post.
  • Authorities can fabricate reports/events, but this is not easy because of diversity of sources.  If staging a pro-government rally would need a group of people, photographers, tweeters, many different sources to give it any credibility as otherwise just would be dismissed.  Patrick Meier said: "Falsifying crowdsourced information can actually be a pain."  "Information blockades are likely to join the Berlin Walls of history." Anonymity protects people, but also undermines credibility. After the disputed election in Ethiopia in 2005 an Ethiopian blogger wrote: "Anonymous blogging and comment give people the licence to be gratuitously offensive without being accountable. Hate speech and personal attacks abound. Scepticism, restraint and verification, all impotant values of proper deliberation, are sometimes in short supply."   Importance of context. Ethan Zuckerman, cofounder of Global Voices, said citizens' media works best in moderately repressive nations, not well in highly repressive nations and only to a limited degree in contries with no repression. 
  • SwiftRiver - verification of data. Stitching together different reports - Tweets, photos etc. Disseminating data - two-way process. Users can subscribe to specific location alerts via Ushahidi. 'Crowdfeeding' as well as 'crowdsourcing.'
  • Crowdsourcing: Ushahidi Verification of reports: Trade-off between authoritativeness of information and timeliness Mobile phones: Variously described as a “weapon of war” or “lifelines” Interaction of ICTs   Linus Gitahi, chief executive of the Nation Media Group, publishers of The Daily Nation, emphasised falsity of text messages and established hotline for information, but largely unsuccessful.  Mobile operatior Safaricom sent messages urging calm and warned of possible prosecution if messages likely to cause public unrest were sent.
  • Mobile phone company manager in post-conflict Liberia planned to remove free calls in evening and provoked a strong backlash as customers said they were most likely to have to make free emergency calls in the evenings. Télécoms Sans Frontières set up in 1988 following a mercy mission to Kurdistan in 1998. Recognised demand for communications among refugees. Communication is a tool for accessing social capital.    Emergency communications support is part of almost every humanitarian response effort after natural disasters/conflict.
  • Crowdsourcing and mobiles supplement existing media. They widen and diversify information and offer unmediated perspectives.    New media does not replace traditional media.   Traditional media players are also prominent in new media environment. BBC received 4,000 texts during post-election crisis in Kenya.   Read Guardian leader article about tweeting.   As ICT experiment showed earlier, we all consume multiple forms of media simultaneously. Some have more of an impact than others - i.e. text messages are more personal and intrusive than checking news online.    
  • Crowdsourcing and rumour: The double-edged sword of ICTs in conflict situations

    1. 1. Guy Collender, Senior Communications Officer, London International Development Centre Crowdsourcing and rumour: The double-edged sword of ICTs in conflict situations ICT: Africa’s Revolutionary Tools for the 21st Century? Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh, 5 May 2010
    2. 2. Overview <ul><ul><li>ICT experiment: audience participation required! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Changing ICT landscape </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Birth and spread of crowdsourcing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assessment of crowdsourcing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mobile phones: Positive and negative implications </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conclusion: Complexity and convergence </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. ICT experiment 2. Online news 4. Text message 3. Facebook/Twitter 1. Radio/TV
    4. 4. Changing ICT landscape <ul><ul><li>Traditional media (TV/radio): One-to-many </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social networking (Twitter, Ushahidi.com): Many-to-many </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. Crowdsourcing: Birth of Ushahidi.com <ul><ul><li>Context: Violent aftermath of disputed Kenyan election 2007 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>1,000 killed and 600,000 displaced in six weeks </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Kenyan Pundit blog posting and response </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Real-time, map-based view of incidents: riots, deaths, rapes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Submission via email/texts, verification with NGOs </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. 15 houses have been burnt in Molo/ Kuresoi area Ushahidi
    7. 7. Assessement of Ushahidi in Kenya <ul><ul><li>Ushahidi's strengths compared with mainstream media and cititzen journalism (Meier 2008).  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Democratising information (Hersman 2008) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;Truth is not guaranteed - but the idea behind crowdsourcing is that with enough volume, a 'truth' emerges that diminishes any false reports.&quot; Ory Okolloh, Ushahidi </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of local awareness: &quot;We were not able to reach a critical mass of people in the country.&quot; Juliana Rotich, Ushahidi </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pioneering platform: Replicated internationally </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Beyond Kenya: Growth of Ushahidi platform 2008: Xenophobic attacks in South Africa; Violence in DRC 2009: War on Gaza; Indian election; Swine flu 2010: Sudanese elections
    9. 9. Pros and cons of crowdsourcing <ul><ul><li>+ Aggregates information to create comprehensive picture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>+ Real-time on-the-ground coverage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>+ Circumvents censorship </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>+ Global reach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Unfiltered information: Misleading/propaganda </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Inequalities of access (rich/poor, local/global) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>+/- Speed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>+/- Anonymity  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Importance of context </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Future of crowdsourcing <ul><ul><li>Gathering data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Validating and filtering crowdsourced information (open source software platform SwiftRiver) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Variations: Open crowdsourcing, ‘bounded’ crowdsourcing (War on Gaza) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Disseminating data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Subscription to specific location alerts (‘crowdfeeding') </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reaction by the authorities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Screening of content increasingly likely </li></ul></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Mobile phones: Spreading rumours <ul><ul><li>Text messages fanned the flames in post-election Kenya (Osborn 2008), &quot;weapon of war&quot; (Bangre 2008) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rumours included: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Alert! Mungiki r hitting back n slaughtering our pple ... Mungiki terror gang plan massacre by night raids </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rumours were frequently perceived as truths in Kibera </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Government or media accounts were dismissed as propaganda </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Mobile phones: Lifelines <ul><ul><li>Irish charity Concern used M-PESA to transfer nearly three million Kenyan shillings to affected communities after Kenyan election </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mobile phones enhance personal security in conflict/post-conflict settings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Télécoms Sans Frontières: Communication hubs serve NGOs/affected communities during crises </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interaction with other ICTs: Integral to Ushahidi.com etc </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. Complexity and convergence <ul><ul><li>Crowdsourcing/mobiles supplement existing media </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Increasing convergence/ interaction between ICTs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Importance of emotional/social responses (ICT experiment) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Revolutionary tools =  catalyst for revolutionary impact (yet to be realised) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Perpetual innovation: mobile internet, MXIT </li></ul></ul>
    14. 14. Resources and feedback Presentation: www.slideshare.net/LIDC Email: guycollender@gmail.com   Twitter: @lidc_uk Website: www.lidc.org.uk Thank you
    15. 15. Guy Collender, Senior Communications Officer, London International Development Centre Crowdsourcing and rumour: The double-edged sword of ICTs in conflict situations ICT: Africa’s Revolutionary Tools for the 21st Century? Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh, 5 May 2010
    16. 16. Overview <ul><ul><li>ICT experiment: audience participation required! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Changing ICT landscape </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Birth and spread of crowdsourcing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assessment of crowdsourcing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mobile phones: Positive and negative implications </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conclusion: Complexity and convergence </li></ul></ul>
    17. 17. ICT experiment 2. Online news 4. Text message 3. Facebook/Twitter 1. Radio/TV
    18. 18. Changing ICT landscape <ul><ul><li>Traditional media (TV/radio): One-to-many </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social networking (Twitter, Ushahidi.com): Many-to-many </li></ul></ul>
    19. 19. Crowdsourcing: Birth of Ushahidi.com <ul><ul><li>Context: Violent aftermath of disputed Kenyan election 2007 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>1,000 killed and 600,000 displaced in six weeks </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Kenyan Pundit blog posting and response </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Real-time, map-based view of incidents: riots, deaths, rapes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Submission via email/texts, verification with NGOs </li></ul></ul>
    20. 20. 15 houses have been burnt in Molo/ Kuresoi area Ushahidi
    21. 21. Assessement of Ushahidi in Kenya <ul><ul><li>Ushahidi's strengths compared with mainstream media and cititzen journalism (Meier 2008).  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Democratising information (Hersman 2008) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;Truth is not guaranteed - but the idea behind crowdsourcing is that with enough volume, a 'truth' emerges that diminishes any false reports.&quot; Ory Okolloh, Ushahidi </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of local awareness: &quot;We were not able to reach a critical mass of people in the country.&quot; Juliana Rotich, Ushahidi </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pioneering platform: Replicated internationally </li></ul></ul>
    22. 22. Beyond Kenya: Growth of Ushahidi platform 2008: Xenophobic attacks in South Africa; Violence in DRC 2009: War on Gaza; Indian election; Swine flu 2010: Sudanese elections
    23. 23. Pros and cons of crowdsourcing <ul><ul><li>+ Aggregates information to create comprehensive picture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>+ Real-time on-the-ground coverage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>+ Circumvents censorship </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>+ Global reach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Unfiltered information: Misleading/propaganda </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Inequalities of access (rich/poor, local/global) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>+/- Speed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>+/- Anonymity  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Importance of context </li></ul></ul>
    24. 24. Future of crowdsourcing <ul><ul><li>Gathering data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Validating and filtering crowdsourced information (open source software platform SwiftRiver) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Variations: Open crowdsourcing, ‘bounded’ crowdsourcing (War on Gaza) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Disseminating data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Subscription to specific location alerts (‘crowdfeeding') </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reaction by the authorities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Screening of content increasingly likely </li></ul></ul></ul>
    25. 25. Mobile phones: Spreading rumours <ul><ul><li>Text messages fanned the flames in post-election Kenya (Osborn 2008), &quot;weapon of war&quot; (Bangre 2008) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rumours included: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Alert! Mungiki r hitting back n slaughtering our pple ... Mungiki terror gang plan massacre by night raids </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rumours were frequently perceived as truths in Kibera </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Government or media accounts were dismissed as propaganda </li></ul></ul>
    26. 26. Mobile phones: Lifelines <ul><ul><li>Irish charity Concern used M-PESA to transfer nearly three million Kenyan shillings to affected communities after Kenyan election </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mobile phones enhance personal security in conflict/post-conflict settings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Télécoms Sans Frontières: Communication hubs serve NGOs/affected communities during crises </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interaction with other ICTs: Integral to Ushahidi.com etc </li></ul></ul>
    27. 27. Complexity and convergence <ul><ul><li>Crowdsourcing/mobiles supplement existing media </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Increasing convergence/ interaction between ICTs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Importance of emotional/social responses (ICT experiment) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Revolutionary tools =  catalyst for revolutionary impact (yet to be realised) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Perpetual innovation: mobile internet, MXIT </li></ul></ul>
    28. 28. Resources and feedback Presentation: www.slideshare.net/LIDC Email: guycollender@gmail.com   Twitter: @lidc_uk Website: www.lidc.org.uk Thank you

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