The Department of Media Studies (DMS) in the Faculty of Humanities (FH) at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU), in collaboration with the Arab Studies Institute (ASI) and the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University of Beirut (AUB), organized on April 23, 2018, under the auspices of His Excellency Minister of Information Melhem Riachi, "The Media Studies Forum (MSF18) - Countering Digital Extremism Through Activism."
DMS Assistant Professor at NDU Dr. Nadine Mounzer Karam hosted the event, which focused on cyber violence and the negative social implications of technology, from a mainly ethical perspective. Discussions revolved around fact-checking and news verification, countering and preventing violent extremism, as a tool for social transformation especially in the MENA region.
FH Dean Dr. Kamal Abouchedid welcomed attendees and said, “This year’s forum is yet another milestone for the Faculty of Humanities in promoting the civic role of NDU.”
ASI Director Dr. Bassam Haddad said, “My only message today is in the form of a question: Why do we need to confront digital extremism since the real enemy is within us?”
“It is a legitimate question to ask: How can we address digital extremism while preserving our values and circumventing the temptation to become extremists in the name of these same values?" were the opening remarks by NDU President Fr. Pierre Najem. He continued, “Social media by its very nature was born from the human thirst for communication. Now in the second decade of the twenty-first century, extremism has been redefined and digital extremism has transcended hate speech … As users of social media, we are called upon to respect the Value Investment Ratio principles in our cyber life … We must not tolerate cyber-bullying, and we must oppose it more vehemently than we oppose bullying in real life.” He concluded, “Dialogue requires respect, tolerance, and open-mindedness; attributes that an extremist lacks.”
Dr. Hassan Falha, representing H.E. Riachy said, “Strategic education is necessary to intelligently confront digital extremism.”
According to keynote speaker Dr. Marwan M. Kraidy, an NDU alumnus and currently Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, “Ignorance of the other party is a frequent prerequisite for demonization, which is the root of many of the problems we are witnessing today." Research conducted in the U.S. demonstrates that whites who do not have black neighbors tend to develop more intense racial attitudes. "Knowledge of the other party allows you to seek the commonalities and establish connections …
Kraidy added, “It is important to understand the history of such a movement and how terrorists today use communication for propaganda. Modern terrorists are a war machine that uses a ‘spectacle of death’ to spread ‘global networked affect;’ weapons are used to create images in our minds–metaphors.”
The first panel titled, “Countering and Preventing Violent Extremism,” comprised of Chair and CEO of Adyan Foundation Rev. Prof Fadi Daou, Founder of Media Association for Peace (MAP) Vanessa Bassil and Former Minister Selim el-Sayegh. Jad Shahrour Communication Officer at the Samir Kassir Foundation (Skeyes) moderated the discussion. An academic commentary to the discussion was given by Dr. Jessica El Khoury -Assistant Professor at NDU.
The second panel about “Ethical Issues in a Digital Age,” included: Deputy Editor/ Senior Business Correspondent at Annahar Timothy K. Maloy, Founder and President of No-Label NGO Nour El-Assaad and Managing Director of Impact BBDO Beirut Emile Tabanji. The session was moderated by Social Media Strategist and TV producer Philipe Abou Zeid.
The discussant in this panel was Research Associate and Program Director of the Culture as Resistance Dr. Hassan Abbas who said, “Social media is a great platform to create effective citizenship.”
DMS Chairperson Dr. Maria Bou Zeid announced the future publication of the second DMS Publication Series issue based on the forum’s outcome.
Awards were distributed to the students who won the competition of the best three Public Service Announcements (PSA) raising awareness on the dangers of cyberbullying.