WAVE & #IAmABeliever Campaigns Featured on New Facebook Counterspeech Platform

Facebook has featured projects by students of the American University of Nigeria, AUN as case studies on its newly launched counterspeech platform, www.counterspeech.fb.com.

The new platform, which is part of Facebook’s contributions to the industry-led Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), contains resources and tips for activists to learn how to counter hate speech, violence and extremism in their local communities.

The two featured campaigns were designed in the course, CMD 412 (Public Diplomacy & Strategic Media Intervention) in the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 semesters and implemented with funding from the P2P Facebook Global Digital Challenge program.

The first campaign #IAmABeliever, designed in the Fall 2016 class, focused on bridging the divide between Christians and Muslims in Northern Nigeria by encouraging people to connect over the aspects of their lives beyond religious beliefs.

The campaign also included a web application, Beliepedia, that shows Islamic and Christian teachings on challenging questions of human existence, such as, “What is the meaning of life?”. Beliepedia enables Christian and Muslim leaders and clerics to post answers to questions from readers and allows readers to comment and share posts on social media. 

According to Facebook’s analytics, the campaign reached over 3 million people worldwide.  It would be recalled that the #IAmABeliever campaign won first place in the all Africa regional finals of the P2P Challenging Extremism competition.

The second featured campaign, designed in the Spring 2017 class, #IAmABeliever2 by Women Against Violent Extremism (WAVE), mobilized 10,000 women across Nigeria through the WAVE 100 Women initiative to challenge extremism in their local communities, using WhatsApp.  Students in the course also created the hashtag #SchoolGirlsNotSuicideBombers to shine a light on the increasing number of young girls deployed by Boko Haram as suicide bombers in the Lake Chad Basin.

The Counterspeech platform notes that “the WAVE 100 Women initiative has expanded into a network of safe spaces for women to organize around issues and advocate for their rights”.   According to Facebook, the WAVE project has reached over 6.2 million people worldwide within five months.

The campaign won second place out of submissions from 160 universities across 70 countries in the recently concluded international finals of the P2P Facebook Global Digital Challenge held in Washington DC.

Interim Dean of SAS and faculty adviser on both campaign projects, Dr. Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob said AUN should feel enormous pride in being featured on the new global counterspeech platform. “I can’t think of a more valid global platform to showcase our mandate as Africa’s development university”, he said.  

“The creativity and innovation deployed in the design and implementation of these campaigns are world class.  Even more profound is the impact these campaigns have had on targeted audiences”, Dr. Jacob added.  

The Facebook counterspeech platform is part of the social media giant’s response to increasing international pressure on tech giants to do more to challenge violent extremism online.

The UN’s Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate(CTED) in collaboration  with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube are jointly supportingthe GIFCT as part of a wider Tech Against Terrorism project pursuant to the UN Security Council resolution 2354 (2017) and the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Comprehensive International Framework to Counter Terrorist Narratives (S/2017/375). Part of the mission of the project is to provide resources and guidance, encourage peer learning and develop links between tech organizations and academia to challenge violent extremism. 


WAVE Wins Second Place in Facebook P2P Finals

WAVE has won second place in the international finals of the Peer to Peer (P2P): Facebook Global Digital Challenge in Washington, D.C on the 19th of July, 2017.

The program featured presentations by four finalist university teams selected from 160 universities across 72 countries worldwide after 15 weeks of rigorous competition.

Coming first place was the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh, with Spain’s CEU Universidad San Pablo in third place and Xavier University in the Philippines in fourth place.

The AUN students’ campaign, tagged Women Against Violent Extremism, WAVE, was centered around empowering and mobilizing Nigerian women to challenge extremism in their communities, as well as raising awareness on Boko Haram’s increasing use of young girls as suicide bombers while promoting religious tolerance. The campaign was immensely successful reaching over 6 million people within and outside Nigeria.

WAVE created the #SchoolGirlsNotSuicideBombers campaign, as well as the WAVE 100 Women movement, a WhatsApp network with over 10,000 women who discuss issues that affect them and organize activities and events to challenge extremism in their communities. The team also disseminated campaign videos which reached more than 500,000 people.

The students presented their projects in front of a panel of experts in countering extremism, including Monika Bickert, Facebook’s director of global policy management, Russell Porter, special coordinator, CVE, United States Agency for International Development, and J.M. Berger, author, analyst and consultant on extremism as well as fellow with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, The Hague and other senior policy makers.

Ebiuwairo Uwagboe, Creative Director of WAVE, and AUN International and Comparative Politics major, expressed joy over making it to the top 2 in the world.  “This competition has given us a lot of exposure and we are excited about what the future holds for this.  We are happy to receive this honor for all our hard work”, she said.

Peer to Peer (P2P): Facebook Global Digital Challenge is a global university competition started in 2015 in which students create social and digital media campaigns to counter online hate and extremism in ways that are credible, authentic and believable to their peers, localized to each of their communities or regions.


"You Are Schoolgirls Not Suicide Bombers", WAVE Tells Girls


To help challenge the increasing cases of young female suicide bombers in the country, students of the American University of Nigeria (AUN) under the auspices of Women Against Violent Extremism (WAVE) last Wednesday organized a security sensitization workshop for 150 young girls in Yola.

The workshop, led by security and counter-terrorism expert Dr. Lionel Rawlins and AUN Senior, Miss Amina Bamalli sensitized the girls, who are all registered in AUN’s Feed & Read program, on how to avoid being used as suicide bombers or as agents for detonating explosives.

Rawlins and Bamalli said Boko Haram terrorists are always on the lookout for young girls that they can indoctrinate and use as suicide bombers and warned the girls to be vigilant, to say NO and ensure they report any suspicious overtures and packages to their parents, teachers or security agents.

“You must never to accept or help to deliver strange packages from strangers” Rawlins warned. “You must value yourself and your life, you are important, you are somebody”.

WAVE organized the security training session for girls registered in AUN’s Feed and Read program, in response to the growing cases of child suicide bombers in Nigeria. According to a 2016 report by UNICEF, one in every five suicide bombers is a child and 75% of all child suicide bombers are girls as young as eight years old.    In Nigeria, Boko Haram has waged a violent insurgency since 2009, that has taken more than 50,000 lives, mostly women and children.  More recently, the sect has resorted to using mostly female suicide bombers to attack markets and city centers in Borno state and other parts of North-east Nigeria.

WAVE’s core campaign message, tagged #IAmABeliever2, aims to promote religious tolerance in Nigeria by inspiring women and girls in the country to value their beliefs and to take action against extremism everywhere. 

The WAVE campaign is developed in the course; `CMD 412 - Public Diplomacy and Strategic Media Intervention’ in the Communications and Multimedia Design program of the American University of Nigeria.  It is part of the Peer to Peer Facebook Global Digital Challenge – a global inter-university competition.  Students registered in the competition, develop social and digital campaigns to challenge hateful and extremist narratives using the power of social media.  The competition, which is held every semester, is sponsored by Facebook and managed by EdVenture Partners. CMD 412 students of Fall 2016 semester launched the first phase of the #IAmABeliever campaign and went on to win first place at the maiden edition of the African Regional Finals in Ghana.


AUN Students Launch Digital Campaign to Challenge Extremism in Nigeria


Students of the American University of Nigeria, AUN, on Thursday launched a digital campaign, tagged #IAmABeliever2 to challenge extremism in the country.

The #IAmABeliever2 campaign seeks to promote religious tolerance and mutual understanding between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, by acknowledging and valuing all beliefs equally, even though they are different.  The campaign highlights the importance and beauty of all beliefs, and the shared space that comes from acknowledging the religious other as a believer in his/her own right.

The students, under the team name, WAVE (Women Against Violent Extremism), are targeting women and young girls in a bid to empower and inspire them to take a stand against violent extremism and not be passive victims of the crises.

The #IAmABeliever2 campaign will be based mainly online, and will harness the power and exponentiality of social media in Nigeria to take its message of hope and tolerance to all parts of the country.

As part of the digital strategy, the team is using the web-application, Beliepedia (www.beliepedia.org), which creates a shared space where Biblical and Qur’anic texts interact on often-dissonant questions.  The site has provisions for users to comment and engage with the topics and texts.

The team also announced a national essay and arts competition for secondary schools students, to create awareness and promote religious tolerance and stem a growing tide of religious intolerance in the country.  

Creative Director of the team, Ms Ebiuwairo Uwagboe, said at the conference that the team decided to target women based on its research findings as well as the vulnerability of women in the ongoing crisis. “We felt the need to do this because it is young girls like them that have been snatched from their mothers and fathers, kidnapped, married off and used as suicide bombers. Women have to take a stand in challenging violent extremism, so that they no longer have to suffer as victims or as tools of this insurgency”.

The students are carrying out this campaign as participants in the Peer to Peer Facebook Global Digital Challenge, an international inter-university competition which gets students from hundreds of universities around the world to challenge hateful and extremist narratives through the power of social media.  The competition, which is held every semester is sponsored by Facebook and managed by EdVenture Partners. AUN students enrolled in the course, CMD 412 (Public Diplomacy & Strategic Media Intervention) launched the first phase of the #IAmABeliever campaign last year and went on to win first place at the maiden edition of the African Regional Finals in Ghana.