Training in Kurdistan on Fake News and Cyberbullying

For two days, staff from Wadi and its partner organizations shared ideas about fake news and cyberbullying – and how to effectively combat both.

By Richard Wilde, 10.03.2023


For two days, a dozen people, including social workers, lawyers, and journalists, from the Wadi Kurdistan environment met in Sulaymaniyah for training on “Fake News and Cyberbullying.” I worked with the participants on the important aspects of digital civility. The event is the continuation of a series of trainings and workshops that Wadi holds regularly in cooperation with its partners. The topics are always chosen explicitly by the employees. Just like this training, which Wadi organized in cooperation with Kirkuk Now.

First of all, it was a matter of bringing everyone present up to the same level. What does fake news mean? What is cyberbullying? How can I recognize these phenomena? And what can we do about it? The term fake news is used to describe all reports that do not correspond to the truth, either in part or in their entirety, or that represent partial truths or consume perceptions. It does not matter whether this happens by mistake, for fun or intentionally.

It is different with cyberbullying. Here it is always about a deliberate digital attack against a person. These attacks can take place with the help of fake news, but also shitstorms or other forms. Dealing with fake news and digital attacks against people is similar to first aid. It is necessary to refresh the applications again and again and to keep in mind which tools can be used in which situations. With many interactive methods, the first part became an exciting change of perspective for the participants, who are themselves experts in their fields.

(Pictures: Pari Abdulla)

With group works, quizzes, research and short games, the group exchanged ideas about which tools are useful. However, there always needs to be a specific view on the particular region where the tools are applied. For example, the input of the German media practitioner is of no use without the expertise of the participants, who all work in the environment of the human and women’s rights movement in the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan. Here, for example, there is a fairly good law against cyberbullying and false reports, but there are still no civil society organizations working to raise awareness of the issue.

Creating awareness for civil courage

This was also the topic of the next part of the training. Together, the participants conceptualized and discussed concrete next steps to strengthen awareness and attentiveness on the Internet for their region. In the process, a rough outline of a campaign gradually emerged. A survey on the topic of cyberbullying, a platform for those affected and supporters, an advertising campaign and a flyer were among the ideas that emerged. The core of the project, however, is a seminar concept that aims to raise awareness for digital moral courage, especially in schools. After all, taking action against cyberbullying and false news is nothing other than moral courage on the Internet. However, not only awareness, but also clear options for action are to be given to young people in order to deal with hate on the Internet. The seminar for the students is to be filled with the interactive methods that the participants have learned themselves over the past two days.

Hardly any support for those affected

But in the end, broad support from the population and the government is also needed to confront this issue. Currently, this is not yet successful, as participants in the training report. Victims of cyberbullying hardly find any support in their families, often quite the opposite. The family sees itself as dishonored because, for example, explicit pictures of their daughter appear on the Internet. But here, too, there is a lack of awareness to recognize and expose false reports. Especially women and people from the LGBTQI* community are victims of such attacks. Although suicide and murder are the most extreme consequences and by no means inevitable in such cases, it still happens far too often.

With the newly gained ideas and methods, more should now be done in the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan. With the words “Criminality and hatred does not stop at the Internet and so will not the commitment to human rights”, I concluded the training, “I am very happy to see soon what you (the participants) have done.