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Students mobilize online to counter extremist rhetoric

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Speech: Counterspeech.

One of the best known ways of responding to the online message of extremist groups is with digital content that counters extremist rhetoric and refocuses attention on messages of peace and tolerance – a concept called counterspeech.

Mercyhurst University students are mobilizing to do just that through the Peer to Peer (P2P): Challenging Extremism Competition sponsored by EdVenture Partners. Under the direction of Assistant Professor of Intelligence Studies Michael Lamm, they are banding together to counteract the proliferation of extremist rhetoric with a social media campaign of their own.

They have chosen to focus their efforts on eliminating negative myths and false stereotypes associated with refugees. The students created the “On(E)rie Campaign” to promote community integration of refugees. The campaign aims to capitalize on Erie’s diversity and promote positive cultural exchange among members of the local community. 

On(E)rie is hosting a free, public event, "For the Love of Erie," on Thursday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m. in the Marriott Café, situated on the lower level of the Center for Academic Engagement at Mercyhurst University. The social event will serve as an opportunity for students and those attending to learn more about refugees and to hear their stories, and to chronicle positive messages across social media channels. 

The competition, which pits college students from around the world, was developed in light of terrorist organizations’ ongoing efforts to recruit young adults through social media. P2P campaigns are structured to combat the narratives and propaganda that extremist groups disseminate. The P2P rationale profers that students of the same age as the target demographic are in the best position to contest extremist messaging and to empower those at risk.

Each university team receives $1,000 to create a credible and authentic ad campaign that will impact their campus, community and country. If you would like to get involved, search and like @OnErieMU on Facebook. 

PHOTO: Mercyhurst team, from left: Aleique Allen, Bernard Garwig, Joshua Slawatycki, Yuhao Yang and Jenbli Cox.