By Aaron Ossai
As the world over expresses worry over increasing activities of terrorists, students of the American University of Nigeria, AUN have devised an initiative aimed at fighting violent extremism via social media.
The interim Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Science, Mr. Jacob Jacob who disclosed this while fielding questions from a group of Editors said the initiative is sponsored by Facebook and the US Department of State.
He explained that the initiative allows university students around the world to compete and develop social media strategies to challenge extremism adding that participants are given a $2,000 operational budget and $400 in Facebook advertisement credits to counter the online messaging and recruitment efforts of extremist groups.
Speaking further, Mr. Jacob said already the US Embassy Counselor for Public Affairs, Mr. Amirthanayagam Aruna and his team met with the students participating the “Peer to Peer (P2P): Challenging Extremism” initiative.
The Associate Dean who led the briefing on the AUN Peace Journalism programme so far, highlighted the CMD 412 “Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communications (Countering Violet Extremism)” course where students are participating in the P2P project.
The students shared their strategies towards driving a social media campaign with #I AM a Believer and an application Beliepedia that serves to inform and challenge strong extremist religious beliefs
They explained that their targets were jaundiced preaching. Their aim is to drive the message that they all worship the same God irrespective of career, gender, social class or educational background.
From a survey carried out, the students observed that youths aged between 17 and 25 were more prone to violet extremism and therefore agreed that musical concerts and talk shows will be the practical medium to counter extremism.
Some of the students also shared how the project has also changed their own perspective. One of the students the project helped him challenge strong religious beliefs he has held while another said he was able to apply his musical talent to lend his contribution to the project.
The US Embassy Cultural Affairs Specialist, Ms Bella Ann Ndubuisi said she was impressed with their work so far and encouraged them to connect with students from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and Bayero University, Kano to share information as they are also involved in similar project.
She also advised them to also target people without access to internet using telecommunication companies.
By Aaron Ossai