Earlier this month, a 16-year-old German schoolgirl, Linda Wenzel, who had run away from home, was captured by Iraqi soldiers in Mosul, Iraq. She reportedly faces execution there for joining the ISIS, after being groomed online by a recruiter for the terror cell last year. While German authorities are negotiating with Iraq for Wenzel’s release and return to Germany, the disturbing incident brings to light just how far and wide – and insidious – the reach of terrorist organisations such as ISIS is, in recruiting members.
Recognising this as an urgent global issue, governments across the world have stepped up their game in figuring ways to counter violent extremism online. To support the crucial initiative, Youth Ki Awaaz and Facebook held an intense three-day hackathon session, the Digital #MasalaChallenge, involving groups of young college students, media representatives and other key stakeholders, who pitched ideas for a pilot-project for a Facebook-funded video series on countering violent extremism online creatively.
The hackathon was extremely successful and culminated in an exciting event hosted by Vir Das, where the ideas of two winning teams were selected by top media professionals. Each team was granted a sum of $10,000 to take their ideas forward, and join the fight against terror cells operating in the online space. In times like these, it was truly heartening to see young people from different walks of life pitching in to help counter the hate and violence, by spreading messages of peace and empowerment. For those who missed it, you can still catch the event here!
And it doesn’t end there! Youth Ki Awaaz and Facebook are organising seven more hackathon sessions across India to include more young people in the fight against terrorism online! The second #MasalaChallenge takes place at IIT Kanpur at the end of this month. Take a look at the details here, and follow our Facebook page for updates on the upcoming sessions!