The seventh edition of the Digital Masala Challenge brought in a whole new layer of creativity on how ‘bots’, ‘browser extensions’ and ‘plugins’ can be used to counter violent extremism on the internet! Organized by Facebook and Youth Ki Awaaz in the city of Kochi, it was an amazing experience to see and learn how technology, in its different forms, can be effectively tapped into.
The five teams competing in the challenge had participants from the NSS College of Engineering (Palakkad, Kerala), the Cochin University of Science and Technology, IIT Kanpur, KJ Somaiya Institute of Management and Research and Ancatag Technologies, a Cochin-based start-up.
Profile wise, the challenge saw a good mix of engineers, management students, marketing students, coders, debaters and UI/UX designers who have been an active part of the hackathon community.
On the jury panel we were joined by Mr Hormis Tharakan, who is the Former Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the former Director General of Police (DGP) of Kerala, Ms Preethi Herman, the Country Director for the Change.org Foundation, India, and Mr Shahul Hameed, who currently leads the Facebook Developer Circle in Kochi.
Based on the observation that people new to the internet and those of a young impressionable age fall prey to extremist content, and an assumption that extremists use public spaces like cyber cafes for their activities (so that they can’t be tracked), the winning team proposed a firewall which monitors these cyber spaces and reports it back to the concerned stakeholders, if the user exceeds a certain limit in their search for extremist content.