Three research questions (RQs) contribute to an empirically grounded understanding of how increased access to social media is affecting the balance between peace-building efforts and attempts to perpetuate violence in conflict-affected communities. These RQs focus on the relationship between social media and conflict, at the macro, meso and micro levels, and are answered through four research streams:
RQ1 considers transnational actors: How are social media changing the ways in which transnational actors participate in violent conflicts or their attempted resolution?
The Internet in Africa is increasingly becoming a site of contestation, involving a myriad of actors (including international organizations, foreign governments, NGOs, terrorist organizations, diaspora groups and multi-national corporations), each with their own interests, values and agendas. This question examines the ways social media are enabling a broader variety of actors to participate, and changing the ways in which they participate.
RQ2 focuses on governments and public authorities: How are public authorities reacting to, and appropriating, social media in conflict situations, either to incite violence or encourage peace?
The term ‘public authorities’ is used to reflect the reality that, in fragile states, or areas of limited statehood, where conflicts are occurring, the state often has limited authority or may be one actor among many. In some cases, informal or traditional authorities (such as religious leaders, insurgency groups, chiefs or NGOs) are responsible for providing elements of governance, such as justice and security.
RQ3 examines the experiences of end-users: How are social media changing the way end-users experience, participate in and respond to violent conflict?
This examines the interaction between conflict and social media as experienced by people affected by and participating in conflict. The term ‘end-users’ reflects that people living in conflict situations are not passive recipients nor are they a homogeneous group. They may not only be in conflict with one another, but also likely to share very different views of what peace might mean.