Increasing the Role of Technology in the Prevention of Genocide

The advent of technology has forever changed our perception of the world and our approach to solving problems. As a true believer in the power of technology and computer science as positive forces for change, I‘m interested in analyzing and developing technological tools that have global effects. One area that offers promise is the application of technological tools to prevent genocide. Recently, McGill University held a Global Conference on the Prevention of Genocide with the goal to better understand how to prevent this man-made catastrophe. The chair of the conference, Dr. Payam Akhavan, stated that, “While genocide cannot be predicted with mathematical exactitude, there are indicia, warning signs, that foretell its possibility, and which provide an opportunity to arrest hate-mongering and violence before it escalates into an all-consuming cataclysm.” The warning signs can be categorized into the following stages:

    • Invention of the enemy
    • Stereotyping/antagonizing a specific ethnic or religious group
    • Disenfranchisement

Unfortunately, history has shown that state-sponsored propaganda, in the absence of other media sources, is often a precursor to genocide. It is therefore paramount that venues for open internal discussion be made available. However, recent studies done by the ONI indicate that unfortunately Internet filtering is not uncommon, and is becoming more prevalent among repressive regimes. Thus, the first preventive measure might be to create online platforms that allow opposing ideologies to engage in debate peacefully. These digital platforms should be free of (external) tampering. Although tools such as TOR, Psiphon, Freenet and the Six/Four system are currently used for viewing filtered sites, publishing anonymously and communicating securely (without fear of prosecution), cryptographic tools that allow secure forums need further development–in particular tools that allow anonymous contributions from participants. 

Blogs and other tools can also raise awareness of what is happening inside a country both domestically and internationally, as we’ve seen in Kenya and Burma. Furthermore, in the case of ongoing crises (such as the Darfur Catastrophe), tools such as Google Earth can be used as anti-genocide
to raise awareness and hopefully shock the international community into action. One thing seems certain: advanced technological tools (web applications, cryptographic protocols, etc.) are readily available and can be used to prevent future atrocities. On June 12, a panel of experts will meet at the UN headquarters in New York to discuss preventive measures. I certainly hope that advancing related tech tools is also discussed.

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One Response to “Increasing the Role of Technology in the Prevention of Genocide”

  1. balderdash Says:

    “allow opposing ideologies to engage in debate peacefully”

    sadly, what is prevalent with opposing ideologies is they tend to NOT debate peacefully. i fear whether the anonymity of secure forums actually aggravates more the burning atmosphere of two fighting parties as they can post potentially harmful remarks on their own whim thinking they would not suffer the consequences. true, a moderator role should be introduced but technically, wouldn’t that be equivalent to monitoring or filtering of some form as well?
    however , it has to be agreed that secure forums and blogs are the century’s most revolutionary medium in influencing the commoners ideology; either for highlighting injustice, alerting the masses of atrocities and spreading propaganda( and libel too) at a much faster pace.