Social media is playing a major role in encouraging violence against populations around the world, especially those belonging to minority groups and indigenous peoples, according to a new report by international human rights organization Minority Rights Group.
“As the reach of social media grows ever more pervasive globally, so too does its impact in contexts where genocide, mass killing, or systematic violent repression have occurred or there is a risk of such things taking place,” the report, published on Tuesday, said.
“Social media platforms now occupy a central role in stigmatizing target groups, legitimizing violence and recruiting the killers.”
Peoples Under Threat 2019 is out now! Our map highlights countries that are most at risk of genocide and mass atrocities. We also highlight how social media poses an ever greater risk to minorities around the world. https://t.co/XCuetfkyvc #PUT #minorityrights #peoplesunderthreat pic.twitter.com/OttUriRSlO
— Minority Rights Group International (@MinorityRights) June 4, 2019
The report noted that even though deliberate misinformation has been an enduring feature of conflict over the years, social media has accelerated the spread of false allegations and dehumanization of targeted groups to an unprecedented degree.
Violent racists have started to use social media as a potential public platform, while the anonymity of social media has enabled repressive regimes and actors to incite hatred across borders.
According to the report, social media will increasingly influence the perception of conflict and violence, their trajectories, and response to them.
“Unequal access to modern technology by way of social media creates an accelerated process through which hate and xenophobia can spread,” Joshua Castellino, MRG’s Executive Director, said in a release.
“The immediacy of the medium facilitates opinion without need for context or nuance. The sensationalist nature of some of these communications, designed to shock and awe, inevitably aids their spread.”
The MRG report, dubbed Peoples under Threat index, listed Syria as the country most at risk of genocide and mass killing this year.
It specified that the power of hashtags persists in Syria: supporters of President Bashar al-Assad have popularized #SyriaHoax on Twitter to discredit evidence of chemical attacks on civilian targets.