AUN students launch campaign to counter hate, extremist comments

American University of Nigeria, AUN main gate

Students of the American University of Nigeria, AUN, Yola, Adamawa State, have launched a campaign, “I Stand For Nigeria,” to counter hate and extremist comments in the country.

The campaign, which is part of the Peer To Peer Global Digital Challenge by social media giant, Facebook, is designed to tackle growing level of hate and radical conversations on social media.

Students offering Online/Digital Reporting in the Department of Communications and Multimedia Design of the university are representing Nigeria in the competition involving over 44 universities across the globe.

During the Spring 2017 Challenge, students of the department came second after Bangladesh, which won the top prize at a grand finale held in the National Union Building, Washington DC, United States of America.

Earlier in 2016, the university had won the African edition of the challenge which held in Accra, Ghana, beating many universities in the continent.

Campaign spokesperson, Salome Nuhu, said the theme, “I Stand For Nigeria,” and the slogan, “Come Stand With Me,” were conceived after the class carried out rigorous research to ”uncover the nuances of hate and radical conversations in the country.”

According to her, findings showed religion, politics, and ethnicity as the major drivers of hate and radical expressions, especially on the country’s social media space.

However, 65 per cent of such comments were found to have occurred on Facebook, while 18 per cent were traced to Twitter and 17 per cent to WhatsApp.

The students said research findings by the class tallied with a similar study by the Dangerous Speech Monitoring System of the Kano-based Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD).

Ms. Nuhu said CITAD recorded 5978 dangerous speeches targeting ethnicity while 5276 targeted religion in Nigeria between May 2016 and October 4, 2017.

“To counter the hate and radical narratives and rekindle among Nigerians, a sense of patriotism, unity and love for the country, the class adopted the theme: ‘I Stand For Nigeria,’ and a slogan, ‘Come Stand With Me,’” she said.

Some of the highlights of the campaign will include rallies, logo posting, talk shows, photo competition and aggressive advocacy on social media platforms, among others.

A multiple award-winning journalist and campaign coordinator, Ibanga Isine, said the “I Stand For Nigeria” will challenge some of the trappings and manifestations of hate and radical expressions both online and offline.

He noted that the campaign will propel a consciousness of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence among Nigerians irrespective of their religious, political, ethnic and cultural differences.

Mr. Isine said hate and extremist conversations were responsible for the crisis in the North-east, South-east and South-south parts of the country and advised Nigerians to eschew bitterness, bigotry and ethnicism.

“Hate speech is every form of expression, whether verbal – voice or written – or nonverbal – shaking of hands, patting the back, hugging, pushing, or other kinds of touch, facial expressions, gestures, and eye contact – as well as visual -parades, insignia, armbands, headbands and picket lines – that spurns, attacks, ridicules, humiliates another on account of his or her nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and or disability”, Mr. Isine said.


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