In 2016, the United Nations Secretary-General presented to the General Assembly a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (PVE), which adopts a comprehensive approach to the challenge of violent extremism – encompassing not only ongoing, essential security-based counter-terrorism measures, but also systematic preventive measures that directly address the drivers of violent extremism at the local, national, regional and global levels.
In 2017, Youth Ki Awaaz and Facebook came together to counter violent extremism by initiating a conversation with the youth to crowd-source ideas that would prevent the recruitment of vulnerable youths into terrorist organisations through social media.
A series of eight hackathons called the Digital Masala Challenge is taking place across India. Each winning team gets $5,000 from Facebook to execute their idea. The events try to find probable solutions – in online counter-speech campaigns, chat bots, web plugins, and more.
The Mumbai Digital Masala Challenge made way for such ideas to flourish. Teams from the Aligarh Muslim University, Ashoka University, Delhi University, Jamia University and individual groups like PLUC and India In Black competed to come up with online and offline engagement ideas.
After rigorously working on their ideas for two days, the teams competed in a 10-minute pitch competition, where the team from the Aligarh Muslim University won! They proposed to build an NLP-based browser extension that analyses content on news portals and blogs on the internet and ranks them on a ‘polarisation index’. A group of experts (yet to be identified) will have access to the developer dashboard of the extension, and can then rate popular articles or those that are going viral on a scale of one to 10. This will be based on how polarised the content is. The extension also offers readers related articles from reputed news websites.
The competition was judged by Shivnath Thukral, the Public Policy Director – Facebook India and South Asia, Ruhee Neog, Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, and Sushobha Barve, Executive Director, Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation.