Reader’s Digest – 14 May 2021

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


Webinar Alert

  • Registration for our TAT and GIFCT E-Learning Webinar Series upcoming webinar, “The Nuts and Bolts of Counter Narratives: What works and why?” is now open. This webinar will be held on Thursday, 27 May, at 5pm BST. Please register here.

    Agenda: 
     
  • Sara Zeiger, Program Manager Research and Analysis, Hedayah
  • Munir Zamir, PhD Candidate at the University of South Wales
  • Tarek Elgawhary, Founder, Making Sense of Islam; CEO, Coexist Research International
  • Ross Frenett, Founder & CEO, Moonshot CVE
  • Moderators: Erin Saltman, Director of Programming, GIFCT; Anne Craanen, Research Analyst, Tech Against Terrorism

Tech Against Terrorism Updates

  • We have published a statement on the UK draft Online Safety Bill, published this Wednesday. You can read it here.

  • Our Director, Adam Hadley, discussed the Online Safety Bill and its implications for smaller tech platforms on BBC News shortly before the draft was published.
  • Today marks the Second Anniversary of the Christchurch Call, co-initiated by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron. Read our statement on the second anniversary of the call here.

  • We are excited to announce that an updated version of the Knowledge Sharing Platform (KSP) will be re-launched to tech platforms soon. The KSP is a collection of interactive tools and resources designed to support the operational needs of smaller tech platforms. It is a “one stop shop” for companies to access practical resources to support their counterterrorism and transparency efforts. Stay tuned for announcements about the launch!

  • Our parent organisation, The Online Harms Foundation, was quoted in a recent Times article on the UK’s Online Safety Bill and the minimum age requirements enforced upon social media companies.

Terrorist Content Analytics Platform (TCAP) Updates

  • We are supporting the Christchurch Call to Action with the TCAP expanding its inclusion policy to include material produced in the Christchurch attack. This will alert material directly created by the attacker to tech companies, including the manifesto and copies of the livestream of the attack.
     
  • This week we released our monthly TCAP statistics for April. The TCAP team collected and verified 1,737URLs containing terrorist content. The TCAP sent out 1,044 alerts to thirty tech companies. 90% of the alerted terrorist content by the TCAP is now offline.
     
  • The April newsletter of the TCAP came out this week and can be accessed here. Don’t forget to subscribe for further updates on development progress, office hours, and other updates!   

Top Stories

  • The United Kingdom has released the draft Online Safety Bill, aimed at protecting users from harmful content, including terrorist content, and establishing a new regulatory framework to tackle harmful content online. 

    Check out our Twitter thread detailing our thoughts on the Online Safety Bill.
     
  • Friday, 14 May, marks the two-year anniversary of the Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online, for which Tech Against Terrorism sits on the advisory board. The summit will be held this Friday.
     
  • The United States has joined the Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online.
     
  • Working papers leaked to EURACTIV show that the European Commission is pitching how the Digital Services Act (DSA) measures will tackle online disinformation to Member States. 
     
  • The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established a new Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) alongside additional efforts to combat domestic violent extremism.
     
  • The United Kingdom saw the ongoing trial of an alleged neo-Nazi, accused of using the website of the System Resistance Network (SRN), a synonym for the UK designated terrorist group National Action, for racist and homophobic propaganda.

Tech Policy

  • Germany’s Online Hate Speech Law Slammed by Opposition, Commission: The German government’s proposed amendment to the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) has been criticised by civil rights activists and opposition politicians, as they believe it encroaches on freedom of expression, reports Oliver Noyan. The amendment of the 2017 law aims to expand transparency obligations for social media companies and other online actors, as Germany attempts to strike a balance between curbing online hate speech and protecting civil liberties. This has attracted criticism from both sides of the argument, with civil rights advocates and some parties calling for its immediate repeal, and opposition parties suggesting that the amendment does not go far enough. The article highlights how Germany is one of a number of countries pursuing tougher measures on combating hate speech online. In Europe, France and Austria have sought to move forward with their own measures to tackle hate speech whilst the EU pushes ahead on their own Digital Services Act. (Oliver Noyan, translated by Daniel Eck, Euractiv, 10.05.2021) 

  • To read more about online regulation legislation in Germany, please see our blog post on it from the Online Regulation Series. 

Far-right violent extremism and terrorism

  • Combating Violent Extremism: Insights from Former Right-Wing Extremists: C-REX’s latest piece considers the opinions of former far-right extremists on countering violent extremism. The article recognises that much of the research using former extremists has sought to advance the discourse on radicalisation and the processes of deradicalization and disengagement, instead of examining how these individuals view efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism. Formers extremists interviewed indicated that disenfranchised youth represent the most vulnerable and susceptible to being recruited into violent extremism. They also stressed that preventative measures in the form of providing a sense of belonging could be crucial to combat youth recruitment, and highlighted the role that parents and families, as well as teachers and educators, in this. The article recommends that this should be seen as an inherently social issue with law enforcement working hand-in-hand with various stakeholders to enhance or develop initiatives to prevent and counter violent extremism. The role of former extremists in this is emphasised as they can offer a unique perspective in the factors behind youth engagement in violent extremism, as well as insight into warning signs of individuals following a path towards extremism. (Ryan Scrivens, Vivek Venkatesh, Maxime Bérubé, Tiana Gaudette, C-Rex, 10.05.2021).
     
  • Is Pandemic Isolation Pushing People Towards Extremism? CARR’s Natalie James and, James Hardy – Tech Against Terrorism’s Research Assistant – consider violent far-right extremists’ co-opting of COVID-19 to radicalise and recruit new supporters. Existing social exclusion compounded by official responses to the pandemic are portrayed as exacerbating persistent grievances among many individuals, such as economic deprivation. There is a real fear that violent far-right extremists will thrive by exploiting these disadvantages to support radicalisation. In this regard, the article explains that the far-right is disseminating disinformation over the existence of the virus alongside conspiracy theories involving racist and anti-Semitic tropes around the virus’ origin and spread – even branching into the realms of accelerationism, representing a notable fascist turn. The authors conclude by discussing the current situation and the ability of the far-right to capitalise on the global health emergency to push their own narrative, ruminating on concerns over the metastasising of online far-right milieus and the potential influx of new recruits. (Natalie James, James Hardy, OpenDemocracy, 13.05.2021).

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