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Technology in Mass Atrocity Prevention and Response

Technology can be instrumental in the exercise of citizens’ rights, but also presents immense scope for malicious exploitation, and to influence political and social dynamics that have major bearing on both mass atrocity dynamics, calling for a revision of the key analytical and policy tools we deploy in preventive efforts. For example, the misuse of new technologies, in particular social media platforms, can amplify hate speech and contribute to national, ethnical, racial or religious polarization, as well as lead to increased surveillance and facilitate repression against specific groups. Powerful dual-use technologies are also proving to be a key battleground in the rising competition among States, making regulatory frameworks around their ethical development, procurement, and sale crucial on the global stage. At the same time, various forms of technology can effectively be used for early-warning and preventive purposes.For example, geospatial intelligence, remote sensing capacities, and other technology-derived methods (including social network and big data analysis) can assist with tracking the movement of individuals or groups (including militias and refugees), or even the ‘mood’ of specific groups, sometimes being able to predict with amazing precision the outbreak and location of identity-based protests or other atrocity risk factors. By bringing hidden and underrepresented voices to the fore, the ‘democratising’ effect of technology can overturn state narratives, allow greater oversight and transparency, and significantly contribute to shaping public policy. Moreover, technology holds enormous potential to support the delivery of public, political and criminal accountability for atrocities, as some of our recent workhighlights.