Texting Incites Nigerian Violence

Ongoing interfaith violence worsens with a tech assist
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2010 8:00 AM CDT
This TV image shows the bodies of victims of interfaith violence in Dogo Nahawa, Nigeria, March 7, 2010. Rioters armed with machetes slaughtered more than 200 people, many of them women and children.   (AP Photo/NTA TV)

(Newser) – Technology is not always a force for peace. In Nigeria, SMS text messages have been used as a tool for ethnic cleansing in an ongoing conflict between Christian farmers and Muslim nomads. Both groups have used texts not only to coordinate their violent efforts, but also to incite violence among the populace. Mass texts in January, for example, warned Christians not to buy food from Muslim businesses, saying it had been poisoned..

Texting in Nigeria quickly came to resemble radio broadcasts that exacerbated the horror during the Rwandan genocide—"Slaughter them before they slaughter you. Throw them in the pit before they throw you," reads a typical message. The GlobalPost notes that a text-messaging network actually helped avert violence in Kenya after a disputed election: "Novel technologies can be harnessed in positive ways, but doing so requires the foresight and will of local actors as well as proper mechanisms to channel new information," write Asch Harwood and John Campbell.

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