In the months leading up to the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the radio station Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines blanketed the country with anti-Tutsi propaganda, inciting its Hutu listeners to “exterminate the cockroaches.” During the genocide, the station took on an even more active role, reading out lists of people to be killed and their locations. The role played by the station only became widely understood outside of Rwanda after the violence was over. Three of its former executives were eventually indicted by a U.N. tribunal for their part in the genocide, but what if the world had been monitoring Milles Collines before the killing started?
That’s the idea behind Hatebase, a new initiative from the Sentinel Project, a Canadian group that aims to use social media and other technology to identify early warning signals for ethnic conflict. There are two main features to Hatebase. The first is a Wikipedia-like interface which allows users to identify hate speech terms by region and the group they refer to. This could have some value for researchers, but Hatebase’s developers are especially excited by the second main feature, which allows users to identify instances when they’ve heard these terms used.