Earlhamites earn national recognition, funding to challenge violent extremism online
December 23, 2016
A team of Earlham students has earned national recognition for its efforts to challenge violent extremism and dehumanization online.
The project by 14 Earlham students in the Peer-to-Peer: Challenging Extremism (P2P) competition is one of three winners of Affinis Labs’ Project Apogee, an accelerator that selects three of the most promising P2P teams and gives them additional resources to help their ideas to succeed.
As part of Project Apogee, i4inclusion has secured funding, mentoring, publicity and technology to grow their idea. In addition, five students will travel to Washington at the end of January for a three-day entrepreneurial workshop and presentation.
“We will receive training from U.S. State Department Specialists, and we would be required to continue the project for another six months,” says Sandra Kluivers ’18. “We will receive support and work with various professionals in order to expand and develop our project. We’re really excited.”
The students, who come from eight countries, are working to counter dehumanization and violent extremism with a social media campaign called i4inclusion using education, understanding and inclusion. Their project, which was submitted to the Peer to Peer: Challenging Extremism competition sponsored by U.S. State Department and Facebook, focuses on media literacy and story.
“What we’re really trying to create is understanding,” Kluivers says. “We’re trying to start a movement online, which we hope will lead to understanding between individuals, stop hateful rhetoric, and teach young people to be more critical of media.”
Through research and surveys, the group learned that the cycle of dehumanization is perpetuated through media-induced biases. The group also found that six in 10 millennials get news through Facebook and that nearly one in three individuals rarely or never fact check.
“i4inclusion is launching a campaign to provide tools to critically evaluate the media by empowering (participants) to detect hate speeches, biases and distorted narratives,” sys Ahsan Ali Khoja ’19.
In a manner similar to a popular blog of portraits and interviews collected from people on the streets of New York called Humans of New York, i4inclusion uses videos, images and quotes to share people’s stories and thoughts, and quizzes are used to increase media literacy.
“Media literacy is a skillset,” says Alejandra Traslosheros ’17. “When people read news we want them to question how this news is being created and who is putting it out and why. Is this an exaggeration? We want to educate by showing how media distort identity using literary techniques. We want to educate and encourage people to identify and cross-check the facts.”
Ideally, young educators and leaders across the United States and throughout the world will work to foster, positive, productive and inclusive dialogue.
“Most people are civic-minded and are interested in not being conned,” says Vedant Tiwari ’19.
The sponsors of the competition, EdVenture, Facebook, the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security, feel that college students are uniquely empowered to counter propaganda groups. Invited teams receive $2,000 to produce their campaigns and the top six teams are recognized with scholarships awards ranging from $5,000 to $1,000.
Plowshares Professor of Peace Studies and Politics and i4inclusion faculty advisor Welling Hall says the Earlham group has received positive feedback from the sponsors and has been asked to compete again next semester. Hall is also Director of Earlham’s Center for Social Justice, which serves as the on-campus sponsor for the i4inclusion project.
The Center for Social Justice is one of three multidisciplinary academic centers that opened in the fall in support of the Earlham Plan of Integrative Collaboration (EPIC). EPIC is a comprehensive program that builds on Earlham’s historic strengths in collaborative learning, off-campus study and interdisciplinary education. The program encourages groups of students and faculty, like those involved in i4inclusion, to pursue innovative solutions to the greatest challenges facing the world.
“For Earlham, this project shows that Earlham students care enough to want to make a difference,” Kluivers says.
The Earlham group also includes Abduselam Kedir Awol ’19, Fredrik William Lyford ’17, Justin Ko ’17, Ronke Abodunrin ’17, Rachel Logan-Wood ’17, James Johnson ’17, Eva Chaitman ’17, Lan Phan ’20, Treston Owens ’18, Selen Öztürk ’17, Sydney Ojeikere ’19.
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Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness, and genuiness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. Earlham is one of only 40 U.S. News and World Report's "Great Schools at a Great Price."
Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at (765) 983-1256 or email@example.com.