Hackathons generate new tools for tackling conflict and hate speech

Our successful #peacehack series has been exploring more groundbreaking ways of using technology to counter hate and violence around the world.

The latest two hackathons were part of the Talking Peace Festival and took place in the UK and the Philippines. They brought together people from the worlds of technology and peacebuilding who worked across the night to develop ideas before pitching them to expert judging panels.

Hacking hate speech in London

#peacehackLDN ran at Google Campus and focused on tackling online hate speech in all its forms, from Islamophobia to cyberbullying. Recent reports reveal that social media and technology are being increasingly used to bully and stir up hatred, in the UK and beyond.

The winning product was Hate speech blocker – a browser plugin that detects and prevents hate speech online, whether on social media or a discussion board. It flags a warning to users through a pop-up window. It is now available to use under the name of ‘Hate Free’ at the Google Chrome store.

The Hate speech blocker team celebrate winning #peacehackLDN

Peter Barron from Google, Georgiy Kassabili from Facebook and Dr Sue Black, an award winning computer scientist, were all on the judging panel alongside Mana Farooghi, who runs our project that tackles Islamophobia in schools in northeast England. Pupils involved in this project also voted after sharing their own experiences and ideas throughout the hackathon.

“The #peacehack competition is so inspirational!” commented Dr Black. “It clearly demonstrates that technology can be harnessed to make a positive difference in the world, improving the lives of those who are vulnerable to harassment, isolation and bullying.”

Dr Sue Black, Peter Barron and Georgiy Kassabili announce the #peacehackLDN winners

First peace-themed hackathon in the Philippines

#peacehackPh took place in Makati City and was the first hackathon with a peace focus to be organised in the country. It drew together over 50 developers and programmers, who in less than 48 hours developed a number of apps inspired by the theme of ‘Perceive, Engage, Alert, Communicate and Educate’ (P.E.A.C.E.).

Judges take notes at the first round of #peacehackPh pitching

The winning idea was Hubert Bryan R. Ursua’s Peacetalk – an SMS-based helpdesk designed for people affected by conflicts or disasters and for groups with resources that can help these victims.

“People won’t have access to the internet. The nice thing about this is people affected by conflicts or disasters will get information about what to do. People or groups with resources can act on victims’ needs”, said Ursua, the co-founder of a tech start-up.

#peacehackPh winners with their prizes

Among the judges were Tim Smith from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Terence Ponce from Developers Connect (DevCon) Philippines, Michael Marin from WebGeek Philippines and Nikki de la Rosa from our Philippines team.

#peacehackPh was organised in partnership with Smart Developer Network (Smart DevNet), and financial support was provided by DFAT.

Find out more by visiting the #peacehack website. You can also stay up to date with the latest #peacehack news by registering your interest here.