“We won International Alert Peacehack and here’s why”

 

 By Chaymae Lougmani, winner of #peacehackLDN 2016

Before I take you through what we did during the Peacehack and why we won it, I want to give you a quick introduction to PeaceHack and give you a bit of context.

What is Peacehack

Peacehack is an initiative of International Alert that brings technologists, designers, developers and peace practitioners together to create and realise ideas and solutions that can be used to stop violent conflict and help build peace.

The Context

The hackathon examined the issues of hate speech in all its forms with emphasis on the real issues of Islamophobia and beyond.

The challenge was to find a way to encounter digital hate speech abuses in digital platforms focusing on the problem of islamophobia.

A total of 10 teams participated in the competition. The hackathon took place as part of the annual Talking Peace Festival at Google Campus in Tech City, east London from Friday 30 Sep to Sunday 2 Oct 2016.

Our team

This is our team, The Hate Stoppers. We all came from different backgrounds and had a great group dynamic.

The Hate Stoppers team

From left to right

  • Alexandra Shaw, UX
  • Kirsty Oliphant, UX
  • That’s me, Chaymae Lougmani, UX
  • Elizabeth Beevor, Product management
  • Stoil Stoichev, Programming
  • Conor O’Kane, Programming

Our product

We all agreed that banning or blocking hate speech is a complex matter, we would tread a delicate path, with the risk of being labeled against freedom of speech. Instead, we found a way to push people to reflect on their behaviour and review their messages before sending them.

We came up with the idea of a Chrome extension plugin that detects the user’s input, takes it through a hate API and provides feedback when hate words are detected.

The plugin is now available for use under the name of ‘Hate Free’ at the Google Chrome store.

Here’s a demo:

Why we won

A lot of brilliant ideas were pitched during Peacehack but many of them were hard to execute or difficult to implement.

I guess simplicity is the key. We also wanted to add stuff and make it cool like everybody but we decided to define an MVP for the Hackathon and we made a user journey map with prioritized features. Planning before getting to work helped us stay focused on the main problem.

As Dan Marsh, Head of Technology at International Alert described it:

“The winning idea was chosen for its versatility, as it can be effective on any social media site, online forum or discussion board. The judges were also excited by its potential use as an educational tool in schools, colleges and libraries. Overall, it is a very practical solution to a complex issue”

The Judges Panel

The panel of judges was composed from:

  • Mana Farooghi, International Alert, tackling Islamophobia in schools
  • Peter Barron, Google’s VP Communications and Public Affairs for Europe, Middle East and Africa;
  • Dr Sue Black, award-winning computer scientist, academic and social entrepreneur;
  • Georgiy Kassabli, Software Engineer at Facebook;
  • Pupils from a secondary school in Lancashire working on International Alert’s project that aims to train Muslim and non-Muslim young people on how to tackle Islamophobia in schools.

Conclusion

The weekend hack was intense and extremely enjoyable. I am glad we have a product available in the Google store however we don’t want to stop there. We have a few meetings coming up with the team and International Alert members to take the Hate Free plugin to the next step and build a plan to implement it in schools and public libraries amongst other institutions.


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