With the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) formalising its work as an independent organisation this year, we are delighted to announce that Tech Against Terrorism will chair the GIFCT’s technical approaches working group. In doing so we will identify opportunities for the innovative deployment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics in identifying terrorist content and supporting platforms in effectively moderating terrorist content.Read our press release here.
We are pleased to announce that Tech Against Terrorism has joined the Global Network on Extremism and Technology’s (GNET) research consortium in a “specialist support” capacity. We will leverage our work with the tech industry to support policy and practically oriented research at GNET, and support the development of ethical research standards on online terrorist content. To learn more about our partnership with GNET, read our press release here.
Our latest webinar in partnership with the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) on transparency reporting for tech companies saw presentations from Reddit’s Policy Lead Jessica Ashooh, Facebook’s Head of Counterterrorism and Dangerous Organisations Policy for EMEA, Dr. Erin Saltman, and Emma Llanso, Director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology. The panel discussed the importance and role of transparency reporting, as well as shared resources and best practice for smaller tech companies looking to create their own transparency reports. You can find a summary of the webinar here, or send us an email at [email protected]org if you wish to access a recording of this webinar.
Season 2 of the Tech Against Terrorism Podcast began this month. In this season’s first episode, we explored how Nordic neo-Nazis use the internet with guests Jonathan Leman, a researcher at Expo, and Dr. Louie Dean Valencia-Garcia, assistant professor at Texas State University. You can find a summary of the podcast here.
In our second episode of the month, we examined how far-right violent extremists instrumentalise meme culture to spread propaganda and mobilise support with Maik Feilitz, a researcher at the Jena Institute for Democracy and Civil Society and fellow at the Centre of Analysis of the Radical Right, and Lisa Bogerts, a Berlin-based independent researcher and expert on visual communication.
What’s up next?
Tech Against Terrorism will take part in the EU Internet Forum technical meeting on right-wing terrorist and violent extremist content online.
Our monthly e-learning webinars in partnership with the GIFCT will continue this month with a webinar on tech sector and law enforcement engagement, during which we will hear perspectives from both law enforcement and the tech sector. As ever, the webinar will close with a Q&A session that is open to all attendees. The webinar will take place on 6 May at 5pm BST. Register here.
On 15 May at 4pm BST we will convene a meeting for academics and researchers to provide an update on progress in the development of the Terrorist Content Analytics Platform (TCAP). This meeting is part of our consultation process for the TCAP. You can register your interest in attending this meeting by emailing us with your institutionally affiliated email address at [email protected]org. Please note that this meeting is reserved for academics and expert researchers.
The Tech Against Terrorism Podcast’s exploration of how terrorist and violent extremists use pop culture elements to penetrate the mainstream will continue this month, with an episode on how terrorist and violent extremists exploit gaming culture. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter to be the first to know when the podcast is released.
Tech Against Terrorism Reader’s Digest – 1 May
Our weekly review of articles on terrorist and violent extremist use of the internet, counterterrorism, digital rights, and tech policy.
Terrorist and violent extremist use of the Internet
- The amalgamation of virtuality and reality in radicalisation processes: In recent years, increased attention has been paid to the online component of radicalisation, however this online element has often been studied separately from the offline aspects of radicalisation. In this article, Manjana Sold analyses how these two aspects of radicalisation processes interact with each other. Sold shifts the research question from the effects of online radicalisation to ask how virtuality and reality are mutually dependent in radicalisation processes. Through an analysis of Facebook profiles of German individuals in various stages of their radicalisation processes, Sold develops on how the virtual world can be seen as an extension of the real one. Sold concludes by calling for a shift in how radicalisation is studied, and in how prevention and deradicalisation approaches are implemented to better take into account this fusion. (Manjana Sold, GNET, 23.04.2020)
- Overblown: Exploring the gap between the fear of terrorist recidivism and the evidence: In this article, Thomas Renard dwells on the existing evidence on terrorism recidivism (reoffending), comparing this with the perception of the risk of recidivism in Europe. In light of concerns amongst European security services, reinforced by the recent attacks in London – perpetrated by individuals recently released from prison – and by worries over prison radicalisation, Renard assesses the evidence on recidivism. Through examining existing research and a new database of Islamist terrorist offenders in Belgium, Renard underlines that policy discussions on recidivism often rely on assumptions unsupported by evidence. Renard’s findings show that recidivism and reengagement are limited while fear of it is often disproportionate. Renard concludes by calling for more evidence-based policy with regard to recidivism while stressing that this does not imply that the risk is inexistent. (Renard, CTC Sentinel, April 2020)
Far-right violent extremism and terrorism
- The risks of online radicalization in the Covid-19 era: The covid-19 pandemic, and the resulting lockdown measures imposed across the world, have led to a major increase in time spent online by individuals – especially amongst young people – creating a “perfect storm for extremist recruitment and radicalization.” Professor Cynthia Miller-Idriss analyses how the increase in online time, as well as the sense of isolation and distress brought on by the pandemic, are exploited by far-right violent extremists to target the youth. She develops on how violent extremists exploit vulnerabilities to disseminate their propaganda and recruit, and on how they capitalise on the spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories to enter the discourse on the pandemic. Miller-Idriss concludes by calling for increased support for parents and teachers to raise awareness about how far-right violent extremists target youth, and to protect the new online learning environment from violent extremists’ interference. (Miller-Idriss, CARR, 26.04.2020)
- The nexus between far-right extremists in the United States and Ukraine: In this article, Tim Lister takes a deep dive into the far-right violent extremist environment in the US, its rise over the last years, its increased use of social media for radicalisation and recruitment purposes, and its overseas connections. In particular, Lister focuses on the connection between far-right violent extremists in the US and the conflict in Ukraine, which has attracted a number of foreign fighters and ideologues welcomed by violent extremists and militias engaged in the conflict. In doing so, Lister also paints an overview of the violent extremist scene in Ukraine, its involvement in the conflict and how this conflict has attracted far-right foreign fighters from Europe and the US on both sides – with only a “handful” of US foreign fighters travelling to the conflict zone. He concludes by underlining the importance of designating far-right violent extremist groups as terrorist organisations to reinforce “prosecutorial firepower” to counter this threat – through the possibility to charge individuals for material support for terrorist group, for instance. (Tim Lister, CTC Sentinel, April 2020)
- Terrorism during a pandemic: Assessing the threat and balancing the hype: Terrorist groups did not disappear with the Covid-19 pandemic, quite the contrary. The virus has entered their propaganda, and important media attention has been given to what the virus means for terrorism. In this article, Jessica Davis dwells on the effects of the pandemic on the terrorist threat, balancing media reporting with the pandemic’s impact on terrorist capabilities and willingness to act. Davis paints an overview of how the pandemic can have mitigating effects on terrorist capabilities – for instance by underlining that physical distancing measures remove one of terrorists’ main target – crowds. She concludes by stressing the importance of keeping our assessment of the terrorist threat “grounded in reality,” and by pointing out that, in the short-term, terrorist groups are most likely to exploit the security vacuum created by the pandemic in conflict zones. (Jessica Davis, JustSecurity, 28.04.2020)
- Blind faith in technology diverts EU efforts to fight terrorism: In response to an op-ed by the Counter Extremism Project, Chloé Berthélémy and Diego Naranjo provides an important analysis of the limitations of automated content moderation when it comes to tackling terrorist use of the internet whilst safeguarding human rights and freedom of expression. Berthélémy and Naranjo stresses that the moderation of coronavirus-related disinformation by the larger social media platforms – now mostly done by automated systems as health guidelines have led to content moderators being sent home – has demonstrated the challenges with relying on automated content moderation solutions. They conclude by arguing for a public debate on the issue of the automated restriction of content, basing their argument on the limitations and misuses of current counter-terrorism legislations in EU member states. (Berthélémy and Naranjo, Euractiv, 29.04.2020)
- Europe’s privacy law hasn’t shown its teeth, frustrating advocates: With Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enacted almost two years ago, Adam Satariano assesses how the “world’s toughest online privacy law” has been implemented so far. Satariano begins his state of play with a reminder that the GDPR, the first law of its kind, has been upheld by many as a model to protect user’s privacy from the “data-hungry practices” of tech companies, and prompted new privacy legislations elsewhere in the world. However, the results of the GDPR appears to be rather ambivalent according to Satariano, with only Google penalised so far. In discussion with Johnny Ryan, Brave’s Chief Policy Officer and campaigner for privacy regulation, and Helen Dixon, the Chair of Ireland’s data protection agency, Satariano balances GDPR’s current results and capabilities with what was expected by data privacy advocates. (Adam Satariano, New York Times, 27.04.2020)
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Background to Tech Against Terrorism
Tech Against Terrorism is an initiative launched by the United Nations Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate (UN CTED) in April 2017. We support the global technology sector in responding to terrorist use of the internet whilst respecting human rights, and we work to promote public-private partnerships to mitigate this threat. Our research shows that terrorist groups – both jihadist and far-right terrorists – consistently exploit smaller tech platforms when disseminating propaganda. At Tech Against Terrorism, our mission is to support smaller tech companies in tackling this threat whilst respecting human rights and to provide companies with practical tools to facilitate this process. As a public-private partnership, the initiative has been supported by the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) and the governments of Spain, Switzerland, the Republic of Korea, and Canada.