Yatanar Htun and Ethan Zuckerman discuss hate speech at MIT's Build Peace Conference

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At MIT's 2014 Build Peace Conference, USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) interviewed Ethan Zuckerman who is the Director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT's Media Lab and Yatanar Htun from Myanmar who works for a local NGO called MIDO (Myanmar ICT for Development Organization) that focuses on ICT for development issues like internet freedom, internet policy, advocacy and digital divide between urban and rural areas.

In the video, Ethan and Yatanar discuss how MIDO is using "Panzagar" to combat online hate speech in Myanmar.

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Video Transcript 
My name is Yatanar and I came from Myanmar (Burma) and I work for a local NGO called MIDO (Myanmar ICT for Development Organization). My name is Ethan Zuckerman. I direct the Center for Civic Media here at MIT’s Media Lab. We focus on ICT for development issues like internet freedom, internet policy, advocacy and digital divide between urban and rural areas. I’m very interested in what’s going on with issues of online speech in Myanmar. I’ve been thinking about this question of hate speech in Myanmar. I started seeing my Burmese friends start posting very interested images on Twitter. And in these images they were holding flowers in their mouth. I was in Yangon about three weeks ago. And I was really fascinated that almost everybody I spoke to was interested in this question of dangerous speech on the internet in Myanmar. There is hate speech operating online especially on Facebook and it is getting worse. I was a little worried that in a country that has a very long tradition of aggressive government press censorship that hate speech would become an excuse for bringing back government censorship of digital media. We are now doing a campaign in Myanmar that is an anti-dangerous speech campaign. Trying to combat incendiary speech online is always a judgment call. It is always subtle and complicated. This is an awareness raising campaign. We just want people to get aware of saying hate speech is a bad thing. It is really encouraging to see a citizen movement led by MIDO to get people to think about what they are speaking online. Religion, race and LGBT, so it is a nation-wide campaign that will go both online and also offline. It is incredibly encouraging to see groups like MIDO really going after this not in terms of law or regulation but in terms of community behaviors and norms. I really think that is the right way to go after these problems. We are holding posters and holding flowers in our mouths and shouting not to spread hatred, be responsible on what you say. I think the imagery around the campaign is great. And to affirm this gesture that we want a Myanmar that is open, tolerant, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and that the notion of Panzagar of flower speech is a way to think about moving towards that direction. Photos came up on Facebook not only from Yangon but also from other cities and towns. I think it is great that the initiative is getting widely seen. It showed up on my Facebook feed before I heard about it through the press so I thought that was very interesting to see it play through. I learned a lot at this conference. I got networks and many people that can help us. I just want to say that technology can make a big change so use technology.

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