An $867,000 grant to UNC will fund a project to create a series of sophisticated videos and other materials to counteract jihadist propaganda that targets young people.
“What makes our project so innovative is that these videos will be produced by Carolina students — experts in understanding how to communicate with their peers — in conjunction with UNC faculty who are experts in jihadist propaganda, video and gaming production, and persuasion strategies,” said Cori Dauber, professor in the department of communication, who also teaches in the curriculum in peace, war and defense.
The UNC grant, for one year, was the largest of 31 issued to institutions by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism Program.
Dauber is an expert in analyzing and decoding ISIL (sometimes called ISIS) propaganda materials and has presented her findings to the Council on Foreign Relations. She is a co-principal investigator on the grant along with Mark Robinson, director of the Multimedia Lab at UNC. The two have collaborated in the past on research analyzing the production means and methods of jihadist materials, especially those of ISIL.
Dauber and Robinson describe their process of working with students “peer-to-peer plus.”
“We have undergraduate students at UNC who are already trained to find, analyze and assess propaganda through courses we currently offer,” said Robinson. The video narratives are conceived and developed by students the same age as the target demographic, but they are supervised by faculty with the necessary expertise.
The idea for the proposal came out of a 2016 Maymester course that Dauber and Robinson co-taught in which students were asked to design and create counter-extremist videos