Mechachal – Final Report Released

We are delighted to announce the launch of the final report of the Mechachal project, one of first academic studies to contextually examine how hate speech emerges and disseminates in social media.

A short summary of the findings can be found here (6 pages)

The full report can be accessed here (104 pages)

Focusing on Ethiopia, and in collaboration with Addis Ababa University, the research team examined thousands of comments made by Ethiopians on Facebook during four months around the time of the country’s general election. Hate speech’ –defined as statements to incite others to discriminate or act against individuals or groups on grounds of their ethnicity, nationality, religion or gender – was found in just 0.7% of overall statements in the representative sample. The paper says the findings may have wide implications for the many countries trying to address growing concerns about the role played by social media in promoting radicalisation or violence.

Ethiopia represented an exceptional case study because of its distinct languages, which allowed the research team to gain a realistic sample of the overall online debates focused on one country. The research team analysed Facebook statements made by Ethiopians, both in their homeland and abroad, in the run-up to and just after the general election on 24 May 2015. Fans or followers, rather than people with any real influence online, were found to be mainly responsible for the violent or aggressive speech that appeared on Facebook pages in the sample.

It appears these individuals use Facebook to vent their anger against more powerful sections of society. Around 18% of total comments in the sample were written by fans or followers compared with 11% of comments made by highly influential speakers (the owners of web pages). One fifth (21.8%) of hostile comments were grounded in political differences, only slightly higher than the overall average of 21.4% of all conversations containing hostile comments. Religion and ethnicity provoked fewer hostile comments (10% and 14% of overall comments in sample respectively).

Price Media Law International Rounds Results Out

We are delighted to announce the results of the 2016 International Rounds of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition. Singapore Management University narrowly defeated Jindal Global Law School from India in an exciting finals round. The competition brought together dozens of teams, many of which successfully competed in regional rounds. The full results can be found on the Price Moot Court website here.  Join us next year for the 10th year anniversary!!

New Article on Constitution-making, Media and the Politics of Participation in Somalia

  • Abstract: The United Nations-led constitution-making process, while highly controversial, has sought to create an opening to help Somalia transition to a new phase in its political development. This article considers the structural features, problems, and opportunities of the process, particularly in the context of debates over external interventions and state sovereignty. It also addresses an area that is often overlooked during constitution-making: the role of media and communications in advancing narratives that not only shape perceptions, but also define the scope of the debate. International actors have worked to promote legitimating narratives, emphasizing certain aspects and values with a focus on the constitution being ‘Somali-owned’. This article shows how local and private media treated and reshaped these emphases and priorities. At this stage it is not possible to conclude whether efforts to “sell” the constitution have generated greater legitimacy, but what is clear is that the narratives that have dominated public discourse have been focused on participation and politicking, reflecting underlying concerns about which groups will have access to state resources, as well as responding to the interventions by international actors. This emphasis has obscured the role of local legal cultures and previous experiences with grassroots constitution-making processes and reconciliation in the Somali territories that might allow for the re-imagining of the nation.

Mechachal Report 2 Released: Discussing Politics and Social Media in Ethiopia

We are delighted to announce the launch of the second report of the Mechachal project, which explores the nature and significance online debates in Ethiopia.

The report examines how social media have been used in the build up of the 2015 elections, highlighting how different parties, as well as the general public, have engaged in electoral politics online. Contrary to expectations, and to what had been the case in other electoral contests in Africa, as the voting day drew nearer, the tone of the debate became less, rather than more, antagonistic. This result may also be due to the little expectations the elections would have brought any significant change in the political landscape.

The second part of the report explores how an historical event, the Battle of Adwa fought in 1896 against the Italian invasion, and which became a symbol of African resistance against colonialism, was remembered and discussed in social media. The analysis highlighted the deep-rooted tensions and antagonism in a multi-ethnic society. Adwa triggered the reactivation of fault-lines such as the divide between Northerners and Southerners, as well as between Amhara and Tigrayans. While antagonistic statements remained a minority, their proportion increased, when compared with average conversations on Facebook. Also, despite that Facebook allows for a plurality of voices to coexist, this does not appear to have led to greater efforts towards understanding competing claims and interpretations. On the contrary, historical memory was often bent to serve existing ideological positions.


From Research to Practice: Bingham Centre Webcast

PCMLP recently participated in a live webcast organised by the Bingham Centre on how to convert academic research to practice. The event brought together a diverse group of speakers from the Overseas Development Institute, the UK Department for International Development, the World Bank and the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre.  PCMLP’s Nicole Stremlau spoke on challenges of using research to inform policy in Africa. The webcast is available to download on the Bingham Centre’s website here.

Stremlau Interviewed on the BBC World Service

At a time when radio stations are under attack in some parts of Africa, new media offers the only real alternative to the dissemination of reliable information. The BBC World Services’ Click hears about a conference on media, elections and conflicts in Africa, held in Oxford and talks to two of the organisers, Marie-Soleil Frère and Nicole Stremlau.  This workshop brought together researchers from the EU project Media, Conflict and Democratization (Mecodem) and its sister project Informing Conflict Prevention, Response and Resolution (Infocore) to explore contrasting experiences in Francophone and Anglophone Africa.  The Mp3 of the interviews can be accessed here.

‘Big Data and Human Development’ Incubator Launched

The Big Data and Human Development Incubator  co-directed by Mark Graham (OII) Iginio Gagliardone (PCMLP), Proochista Ariana (QEH) investigates the potential uses of ‘big data’ for advancing human development and addressing equity gaps.

The ultimate goal will be to stimulate policy-oriented research that seeks to understand: 

  1. what presences and absences of data tell us about issues of participation and exclusion;
  2. what data tells us about gaps in human development: facilitating better decision making and accountability in previously data-sparse environments;
  3. what tools have emerged globally that can maximise citizen ownership of big data.

The incubator will build a digital observatory to assess potentials of different data sources; aim to empirically illustrate some of the promises and perils of using big data to inform human development; and bring together research and policy to ensure methodological knowledge about big data is appropriately mapped.

This inclusive initiative will include practitioners, scholars and interested parties from around the world with the aim of ensuring that workshops and resources produced are shaped by the people to whom they matter most.

More information is available on the project website:






New Report on Online Engagement in Ethiopia Published

In collaboration with Addis Ababa University, and with the support of a tremendous team of researchers, PCMLP is pleased to launch the first report of a series looking at online engagement and hate speech in Ethiopia. The team, led by Dr Iginio Gagliardone, has been testing innovative methods to understand how Ethiopians in Ethiopia and the diaspora are using social media to talk about politics, religion, and ethnicity.

The results, which largely focus on interactions on Facebook, are particularly important given the limited availability of systematic research on social media use in Africa. They also suggest how, despite the limited penetration and polarization that has characterized the media in Ethiopia, social media seems to have offered new opportunities for engagement and experimentation.
This first report only offers a preliminary analysis of the initial results, and the two following reports will look more in depth at the debates before and after the 2015 elections and at prevalent forms of communication in the Ethiopian online sphere.

Conference on “Arcs in Internet Regulation: Assessing New Directions” on November 23rd and 24th in Oxford

Tencent               Oxford                   Stanford               Peking

We are pleased to announce that the University of Oxford will be hosting the forthcoming conference on “Arcs in Internet Regulation: Assessing New Directions” on November 23rd and 24th in Oxford.  This is part of the annual Peking-Oxford-Stanford series in Internet Law and Policy. This conference builds on previous annual events and focuses on significant issues in Internet law and policy that will require attention in the coming years, such as digital human rights, smart cities, new technologies and courts, and Internet governance and development.

The conference draws primarily on the strengths of the three universities involved, and their networks, bringing together a unique collection of scholars and students, government officials, corporate executives, and civil society representatives with the goal of informing research and strengthening the understanding of alternative viewpoints with a focus on the US, Europe and China, as well as global challenges

This is an extraordinary opportunity to debate and discuss the future of the Internet. The Conference is hosted by the University of Oxford’s Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy in the Faculty of Law’s Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, with generous support from Tencent.

The first day of the event (November 23rd) is open to all upon registration, although space is limited.  We are delighted to invite all delegates to enjoy lunch with us in an Oxford college and join us for a reception at one of Oxford’s most distinguished venues after the event.

Day two (November 24th) is structured in a round-table format and space is limited to invited participants. Closer to the date we may be able to accommodate a few additional participants, so please do signal your interest if you would like to attend the second day as well.

A full agenda will be posted shortly. An assortment of our confirmed speakers include:

Bei Zhang (DIDI)

Bennett Freeman (GNI)

Brent Irvin (Tencent)

Cai Xiongshan (Tencent)

Daphne Keller (Stanford University)

Ebele Okobi (Facebook)

Guy Berger (UNESCO)

Iginio Gagliardone (University of Oxford)

Jacob Rowbotton (University of Oxford)

Janine Aron (University of Oxford)

Jason Si (Tencent)

Jianzhong Shi (China University of Political Science and Law)

Jonathan Bright (University of Oxford)

Jonathan Mayer (Stanford University)

Liming Wang (Renmin University)

Lisa Larrimore Ouellette (Stanford University)

Luciano Floridi (University of Oxford)

Mark Stephens (Howard Kennedy)

Ming Yang (Peking University)

Mingde Li (China Academy of Social Sciences)

Monroe Price (University of Pennsylvania/ University of Oxford)

Nicole Stremlau (University of Oxford)

Paolo Cavaliere (University of Edinburgh)

Paul Goldstein (Stanford University)

Philip R. Malone (Stanford University)

Ping Zhang (Peking University)

Rebecca MacKinnon (Ranking Digital Rights)

Richard Danbury (University of Cambridge)

Shouwen Zhang (Peking University)

Steve Crown (Microsoft)

Timothy Garton Ash (University of Oxford)

Yong Huang (University of International Business and Economics, China)

Xixin Wang (Peking University)

To register for the first day of the conference on November 23rd, please fill out the registration form using the tab at the top of this page.

We look forward to welcoming you at the University of Oxford in November.

Stremlau, Gagliardone and Fantini Publish in Third World Quarterly

Nicole Stremlau, Emanuele Fantini and Iginio Gagliardone have recently published Patronage, Politics and Performance: Radio Call-in Programmes and the Myth of Accountability in the leading journal, Third World Quarterly. This article draws on extensive research in the Somali Territories.  Free download of this article available for a limited time.

An abstract follows:

The role of media in promoting political accountability and citizen participation is a central issue in governance debates. Drawing on research into the interactions between radio station owners, journalists, audiences and public authorities during Somali radio call-in programmes we argue that these programmes do not simply offer a new platform for citizens to challenge those who are governing but that they are also spaces where existing power structures reproduce themselves in new forms. We identify the ways the programmes are structured and the different motivations the audience has for participation. Three types of programmes are identified and their relationships with patronage, politics, and performance are examined. Rather than focusing on normative assumptions about the media as a tool of accountability, the article emphasises the importance of understanding radio programmes in their social and political environment, including the overlapping relationships between on-air and off-air networks.