The 2021 Social Media Conference to discuss emerging digital threats

The 2021 social media conference is around the corner and there is a lot to look out for in the 2-day event. The conference, happening in its 6th edition, is organized by the Uganda country office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.

The event is set to be held virtually in August 2021 on 25th – 26th, at Kampala Sheraton Hotel, under the theme “Digital democracy in a Post Pandemic Era”. It shall highlight how Social Media has facilitated citizen journalism, Elections in Africa, its impact on mental health among many other topics.

There are at least 30 speakers expected to take part in the various panels at the conference. Particularly, the second day will have a keynote speech by Agnes Igoye, and a panel discussion on the “Tackling emerging digital threats: Extremism, trafficking, and Radicalization” topic. The panelists are Ojok Okello, Lynna Abaho, Besigye Andrew, and Opolot Nicholas as the moderator.

Let’s get into a bit of the detail on the emerging digital threats to be discussed.

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Threats to be discussed at the 2021 Social Media Conference

Extremism on social media

Extremism on social media platforms is an important regulatory question for civil society, government, and the private sector, mirroring existing discussions about platform governance in general. Extremists exploit social media platforms, and the Internet more generally, for a range of reasons; from spreading hateful narratives and propaganda to financing, recruitment, and sharing operational information.

How best to counter such activity has recently been the focus of an emerging field of academic and policy debate. While many extremists end up barred from social media at the discretion of hosting platforms, often in discussion with government and law enforcement, significant attention is being paid to counter-messaging and other strategic communication techniques as potential responses.

Trafficking on social media

In November 2020, A UN rights committee called on social media platforms to use big data and artificial intelligence to help eliminate trafficking in women and girls, amid an increase in online traps designed to recruit potential victims during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The committee said that countries had seen a global rise in “trafficking in cyberspace” in recent months. The demand online has been channeled “through social media, the dark web, and messaging platforms” which provide easy access to potential victims but hide the identity of the perpetrators.

The rights experts also warned against the increased recruitment of vulnerable people by traffickers for online sexual exploitation, along with “an increased demand for child sexual abuse material and technology-facilitated child sex trafficking”.

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Radicalization on Social Media

Radicalization is defined as the process by which people come to support terrorism and extremism and, in some cases, to then participate in terrorist groups.

Studies show that the internet has – in one way or another – played a role in the radicalization process of the violent extremists and terrorists who took part in this study. However, while self-radicalization is possible through the medium of the internet, physical contact always plays a significant role in the process.

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Key topics at the 2021 Social Media Conference

There is an inseparable bond between social media and elections in Africa. We have always seen blackouts and bans on usage as soon as the polls draw closer. This will be a point of discussion. Then, there is the growth of citizen journalism and how it has influenced digital newsrooms. The conference will discuss how to build a consensus for new media

Also, another key topic to discuss is Digital Diplomacy, and the rise of algorithms and implications of big tech in African Institutions, Governments, and Individuals. To this, you add the impact of social media on mental health; tackling emerging digital threats such as extremism, trafficking, and radicalization; as well as the rise of Global Social movements.

Not to ignore the re-framing of the climate change agenda on social media.

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