Reader’s Digest – 26 March 2021

Our weekly review of articles on terrorist and violent extremist use of the internet, counterterrorism, digital rights, and tech policy.

Tech Against Terrorism Updates

  • We will be hosting our next webinar on “Technical approaches to countering terrorist use of the internet: URL sharing and collaborative tech sector efforts” on 31 March at 17:00 pm BST. Please register with your institutionally affiliated email address here.
  • We have opened registration for the March sessions of the Terrorist Content Analytics Platform (TCAP) Office hours. Since its launch, the TCAP has verified 5,700 URLs containing terrorist content and sent out over 2,300 content alerts –  90% of which is now offline. Sign up here to receive an update and ask any questions you may have on this progress.

Top Stories

Proposed legislation on Section 230:

  • Slate has collated a list of the numerous legislative proposals that seek to alter Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act.
  • The CEO’s of Google, Facebook, and Twitter faced US Congress in a hearing where lawmakers questioned them on disinformation, violent conspiracy theories, hate speech, disinformation around COVID-19, and child sexual abuse material.
  • Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg proposed reforms to Section 230 in his opening statement at the Congressional hearing. He says intermediary liability should be conditional on tech companies proving they have systems in place to remove illegal content. He argues that this should not be reliant on tech companies removing all content, as it would be impossible to do so given the amount of content to moderate.

    To read more on Section 230, please see our blogpost on the United States as part of our online regulation series.

Other Top Stories:

  • Over 60 human rights and journalist organisations have written a letter to Members of the European Parliament, asking them to vote against adopting the proposed Terrorist Content Online Regulation in the April 2021 plenary meeting.
  • The EU Commission has reassured member states that Europol’s encryption platform will not lead to abuses in data protection standards and that it will maintain close oversight to ensure digital rights are upheld.
  • The EU Commission has adopted a resolution that AI technology needs to be trained using unbiased data to prevent discrimination against gender and race, to encourage linguistic and cultural diversity.
  • The United Kingdom’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has published its report on the operationalisation of terrorism legislation in the UK in 2019.
  • YouTube has clarified that it will not remove the livestream of the shooting filmed by a bystander in Boulder, Colorado, US, on 22 March, in which the perpetrator killed 10 people. A YouTube spokesperson said that “while violent content intended to shock or disgust viewers is not allowed on YouTube, we do allow videos with enough news or documentary context.” YouTube has, however, imposed an age restriction on the video.
  • The former CEO of Parler, John Matze, has sued Parler for “forcing” him out after  the 6 January Capitol siege.
  • Microsoft is in discussions to buy Discord for over $10 billion.
  • A top advisor of former President Trump has announced that Trump will launch a new social media platform which will arrive within the next three months.
  • Hope Not Hate has published its 2021 State of Hate Report discussing the key trends and changes in the far-right scene both in the United Kingdom and globally.
  • The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has published its annual report,  which shows that white supremacist propaganda almost doubled in 2020 with propaganda incidents increasing from 2,724 in 2019 to 5,125 in 2020.

Islamist Terrorism

  • Nigeria: Boko Haram brutality against women and girls needs urgent response – new research: This article, by Amnesty International, calls for an urgent response to the brutality of Boko Haram, which the organisation classifies as war crimes. The report highlights the violence against women and girls, including rape and other sexual exploitation. The report also emphasises that mass pillaging and murder have left thousands displaced and without access to food and health services. The report concludes that immediate action is required from Nigeria and its partners as the humanitarian crisis is getting worse by the day. (Amnesty International, 24.03.2021).


  • Teen terrorism inspired by social media is on the rise. Here’s what we need to do: Farah Pandith and Jacob Ware discuss the increase in teenagers involved in terrorism, how this is enabled through social media, and how to counter this. Pandith and Ware analyse numerous case-studies of teenagers involved in different forms of terrorism. They identify that the emergence of lone-actor terrorism and online radicalisation have catalysed minors’ involvement in terrorism. The article warns that this trend is likely to get worse, as Generation Z and Generation Alpha will rely on social media to an increasing extent and thereby be exposed to extremist ideas online. The article argues that encouraging digital media literacy, protecting vulnerable teenagers from malicious actors online, and promoting values of inclusion to all identities are needed to counter this trend (Pandith and Ware, NBC News, 22.03.2021).
  • Why is it so hard for America to designate domestic terrorism and hate crimes?: This article, by Rashawn Ray, argues that the US fails to designate violent attacks by the far-right as hate crimes or acts of terrorism. He mentions the lack in legal statutes for law enforcement to interpret violent far-right incidents as hate crimes or terrorism, and the normalisation of racism as two reasons for this lack of designation. He argues that this undermines the US’ democratic values and freedom, as well as hinders the communities’ ability to heal from an attack by the violent far-right. (Ray, Brookings, 18.03.20).

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