#peacehack London 2017: hacking for peace at our #robotsforpeace workshop

Last weekend, we built a flock of twitterbots at two #peacehacks in London and Brierfield to spread messages of peace on Twitter for International Peace Week.

The latest hackathon joined a campaign from Build Up and International Alert to build #robotsforpeace to reach as many people as possible and get #peaceday trending on Twitter.

Tech mentors and bot-building workshops on the day supported anyone with no coding experience.

The #robotsforpeace campaign takes the concept of twitterbots, which have been used extensively to spread division and misinformation, and puts bots in the service of raising awareness of International Peace Day and its message of peace.

The idea for #robotsforpeace was inspired by an article looking at how ‘inhumanly loud’ twitterbots were used in the Trump campaign to manufacture consensus online. By repurposing automated twitterbots, we’re turning them around to support a broader process of engagement with peacebuilding.

The day kicked off with a discussion on the ethics of using twitterbots for peacebuilding. Jen Gaskell from Build Up and International Alert’s Phil Vernon presented various scenarios, looking at how twitterbots tweeting for peace might be gamed, breach privacy, spamming, exceeding rate limits. Everyone signed up to a code of conduct to follow Twitter automation rules, not mislead users into thinking they are human, not spam harass or do any malicious stuff, and not to directly contact users unless they have initiated contact.

Then Alan, our resident bot-building expert ran a workshop on how to build a bot using CheapBotsDoneQuick.com which writes bots in Tracery and is easy to use even with zero coding knowledge and the hackers got started hacking.

By the end of the day after lots of hard work and a quick hello to our fellow hackers at the parallel Brierfield hack, everyone built bots with all different kinds of functionalities. Hacker teams and solo bot-builders presented multi-lingual bots, joke-making bots, peace placard creating bots, bots using sentiment analysis and more at the final show and tell …

Top prizes for top tweet, most original bot name and all round top bot went respectively to:

@bot2u‘s tweets generating peace campaign placards

@MabotmaPeacedi for most original bot name

@tyrellbot won top prize for originality, technically impressive and creative approach, with a bot that searches for and rewords tweets from negative to positive sentiment.

Everyone made fantastic contributions to the day, bringing new and exciting ideas, and even cartwheels to their bot-building approaches.

At #peacehack, technologists learn about peacebuilding and conflict and peacebuilders learn about tech. Ideas are formed, new friendships grow. We’re building a community beyond the events, and working together with hackers to grow the tech ideas and products – Everyday Peace is a platform for everyday peacebuilding actions and last year’s London winning team built the browser based app HateFree to tackle hateful speech online, available on the Chrome Web Store.

We’ve hacked together in Beirut, Manila, Barcelona, London, Brierfield, Washington and many more places – the next peacehack will be in Bogota at this year’s Build Peace conference – come and join us!!

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