Reader’s Digest – 30 July 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

  • On 26 July, our Director, Adam Hadley, spoke at the GIFCT Global Summit, discussing key trends in terrorist use of the internet, including terrorist operated websites and emerging tech platforms.

  • We released our Gap Analysis on Technical Approaches to Counter Terrorist Use of the Internet in partnership with the GIFCT. The report suggests a variety of policy recommendations including the need to formulate a strategy that encourages stakeholders to work towards a common goal and to ensure that technical solutions are considered alongside policy responses. You can access the full report here.
     
  • On 26 July, we released our Tech Against Terrorism guidelines on “Government Transparency Reporting on Online Counterterrorism Efforts”. You can access the guidelines here.
     
  • On 30 July, we released our latest OSINT report, covering key trends in terrorist and violent extremist use of the internet observed by our OSINT team over the past six months. You can access the full report here.
     
  • Our Senior Research Analyst, Anne Craanen, was invited to the latest Taking Apart Terror podcast, by the Global Coalition Against Daesh, to provide expert insight on the Islamic State’s use of the internet and our work to counter it. You can access the recording here.
     
  • On 30 July, our Senior Research Analyst, Anne Craanen, spoke on the BBC’s Tech Tent podcast episode “Intel’s Road Ahead”. She discussed terrorist use of the internet and our work supporting smaller tech platforms. Listen to the episode here.

Terrorist Content Analytics Platform (TCAP)

  • Last week (19.07-25.07) the TCAP identified 765 URLs containing terrorist content and sent 484 alerts to 26 tech companies. 93% of this content is now offline.
     
  • Thanks to all that tuned in to our July Office hours. If you were unable to attend this month and would like access to a recording of the session, please get in touch with us at [email protected]. You can also request a copy of past Office Hour recordings on our website here.

Top Stories

  • Paypal announced a partnership with the Anti-Defamation League to research transactions on networks that allegedly fund hate groups and violent extremists.
     
  • Germany is calling for tighter obligations for tech platforms to counter illegal and hateful content in the upcoming EU Digital Services Acts, to mirror the current national framework (Network Enforcement Act).

    You can read our response to the EU’s proposed Digital Services Act from January 2021 here.

    You can also read our analysis of Germany’s online regulation landscape, including the NetzDG, as part of our Online Regulation Series Handbook here.
     
  • Ofcom, the UK media regulator, appointed Anna-Sophie Harling as its online safety principal. She will be in charge of tackling disinformation and ensuring transparency over how larger tech companies deal with harmful and illegal speech.
     
  • France and the UK signed a new security deal aiming to protect the public in the event of a terrorist attack in the Channel. This will ensure “seamless joint and coordinated action” to be taken by both countries in in the event of a terrorist attack.
     
  • Lord Toby Harris has been appointed by the Mayor of London to assess whether Covid-19 has had any impact on how well the city would cope with another major terrorist attack.
     
  • China and Pakistan agreed to take joint actions against the “terrorist spillover” in Afghanistan as peace talks with the Taliban have stalled.

Tech Policy

  • UK: Daft Online Safety Bill Poses Serious Risk to Free Expression: Article 19’s response to the UK’s Online Safety Bill highlights a potential “chokehold on freedom of expression”. They relay concerns over an “unduly broad scope”, an overly complex approach, “overbroad discretion and control of the government”, and “disproportionate sanctions” handed out to tech companies. Article 19 also demonstrates the possibility of “weakening privacy and security of communications” through monitoring of communications and the implementation of “age-verification mechanisms”. These have been criticised by digital rights groups as it will “likely constitute a disproportionate interference” with the rights of freedom of expression and privacy.
    (Article 19, 26.07.21)

    You can read our full statement on the UK’s Online Safety Bill here and our analysis of online regulation in the UK in the handbook.

Violent Islamist extremism and terrorism

  • Mozambique: Fears of Escalating Conflict as Foreign Troops Clash with Islamists: This piece focuses on the regional conflict with insurgents linked to the Islamic State based in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. With the growing threat of al-Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates in central and south-east Africa, plans have been drawn to deploy “thousands of foreign troops” to Mozambique to battle the insurgents. However, there are concerns that the many foreign entities becoming involved in the conflict could lead to a ripple effect in nearby countries, or to possible local reprisals by Islamic State militants. Despite foreign troops having “a limited record of success” when battling violent Islamist entities in Africa, analysts believe that military pressure can “degrade and erode” the terrorist threat, this will however require “resolution dialogue” to succeed. (The Guardian, 26.07.21)

Far-right violent extremism and terrorism

  • The Race War May No Longer be Digitised: James Mason’s Designation as a Terrorist Entity in Canada: Bethan Johnson and Matthew Feldman respond to the recent decision by the Canadian government to designate James Mason as a terrorist entity and potential impact on online SIEGE content. The authors assess the implications of the designation by the Canadian government, which permits “the removal of his content from the internet”. The authors note, that without international cooperation, the Canadian government may be involved in a “metaphorical game of whack-a-mole” as Mason’s content is forever removed and reuploaded in other countries. The authors advocate for collaboration between state and corporate entities to halt the global proliferation of this content, highlighting that (at present) the global counterterrorism space lacks agreement on “censorship, online free speech or even what constitutes terrorism and how to combat it”. (Johnson and Feldman, GNET, 29.07.21)

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