2022-2023 Global Research Initiative Fellowship

The Dangerous Speech Project is thrilled to introduce our current cohort of Global Research Initiative (GRI) Fellows.  Members will support each other to advance research and intervention projects. This year’s class of Fellows was chosen from a highly competitive pool of students, scholars, and members of civil society. Each Fellow will complete a detailed case study on their selected topic and discuss their work with other Fellows. The Fellows’ work will help us continue to advance our understanding of Dangerous Speech and how it operates in a variety of contexts. A list of Fellows along with brief descriptions of their projects is below.


Kenya – dangerous speech targeting the LGBTQI+ community

The project will examine the prevailing attitudes of the Kenyan public toward homosexuality, the LGBTQI+ community, and how hate rhetoric by influential speakers against the LGBTQI+ community contributes to violence experienced by the LGBTQI+ community. We will also explore the role of social media in fuelling the prevailing narratives and how these utterances trigger online/offline violence.

Kendi Gikunda is a practitioner in conflict mitigation and peacebuilding with experience working with refugees, internally displaced people, marginalized people, and local communities. She is currently the architect of the Social Media Hate Speech Mitigation Field Guide at the #defyhatenow initiative, where she has worked with programs in South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Kenya, and Germany. She is also currently studying Public Policy and Management at Strathmore University, Nairobi.
Njoki Kariuki is a research and communications professional. Her work is focused on conflict mitigation, migration, and advocacy for marginalized persons.  As a researcher, she focuses on ways through which women are impacted economically by projects and businesses they interact with. She holds a degree in International Business Management and is currently the social media coordinator for r0g_agency, where she works with programs in Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, South Sudan, Ghana, and The Gambia.



Poland – dangerous speech targeting Ukrainian refugees

Trzaskowski’s project discusses the instances of dangerous speech that target Ukrainian war refugees in Poland. When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, millions of Ukrainian refugees have crossed the Poland-Ukraine border. Although both the Polish people and the Polish state have given the Ukrainians support, the prolonged immigration crisis and looming economic difficulties cause the audience to become growingly susceptible to this kind of speech.

  Paweł Trzaskowski is a Polish scholar based at the University of Warsaw and Polish Radio, and a 2020/21 DSP Global Research Initiative Fellow. He holds a doctor’s degree in applied linguistics. His academic work focuses on language pragmatics, especially the phenomenon of unethical speech. His latest work concerns the manipulative and toxic language of online comments and dangerous speech that targeted Silesians infected with COVID-19.



Sri Lanka – Dangerous speech glorifying the Sri Lankan civil war

This project seeks to document rhetoric and misinformation glorifying the Sri Lankan civil war, as well as related rhetoric that protects participants of said war from accusations of war crimes (from both a pro-LTTE and pro-Sri Lankan Government angle). With enough data, we hope to better identify and document the narrative strands running beneath the justifications involved in celebrating carnage and slaughter.

  Yudhanjaya Wijeratne is a Sri Lankan writer and researcher. He co-founded and leads Watchdog Sri Lanka, an open-source research tech+journalism collective that hunts misinformation, performs detailed data journalism into physical and social infrastructure, and builds free technology to help Sri Lankan communities when the state fails to provide. Previously, he worked at LIRNEasia as a data scientist, building large corpora for languages like Sinhala and Bengali, and machine learning models for sentiment and misinformation detection on top. When not doing research, he is a Nebula and IGF-award nominated author of science fiction.



United States – dangerous speech within Christian nationalism

Tracking dangerous speech within Christian Nationalism that is aiming to encourage physical violence and/or civil war as an act of spiritual warfare as a sign of faith or in preparation for the return of Christ.

  Heather Openshaw recently obtained an MBA & MPA from Presidio Graduate School with a research focus on deradicalization and how progressive, ethical technology along with creative policy implementations can address the need for violence reduction in society. She has studied emerging global data policies, counter-radicalization, cyber security, and information warfare. Heather is a skilled communicator who is enthusiastic about storytelling, collaborative empathy, and social-sustainable innovation. She currently lives in West Virginia where she spends her time exploring outdoor sports, drinking tea with friends on back porches, and writing creative stories about her history in extremism.



You can find more information about past GRI researchers here.

If you have questions or would like more information about the Global Research Initiative Fellowship, please contact [email protected]