Reader’s Digest – 3 September 2021

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


We are hiring! Tech Against Terrorism is looking for two interns to support the development of the Terrorist Content Analytics Platform (TCAP) over the next 6 months. More details can be found here.

Tech Against Terrorism Updates

  • We have published the Tech Against Terrorism Annual Report 2020-2021. In this report, we provide a detailed summary of our activities in 2020 and the first two quarters of 2021 across the three pillars of our support for the tech sector: outreach, knowledge sharing, and operational support.

  • Tech Against Terrorism’s Terrorist Content Analytics Platform‘s decision to include official content from the Afghan Taliban was mentioned in a recent article by The Diplomat. You can read the TCAP’s full statement here.

  • We spoke with the New York Times on the topic of US-based extreme far-right’s view on the Taliban’s victory. “We’ve come across a lot of content that’s U.S.-based extreme far-right websites saying how good the Taliban victory is, and why it’s good for their cause.”  You can read the article here.

  • You can now register for the August sessions of the TCAP Office hours where we will provide more detail on our inclusion of the Taliban and other developments.  Register here.

Top Stories

  • Human Rights Watch has joined Access Now, Amnesty International USA, and Mnemonic in issuing a statement, calling on social media platforms to preserve and archive content that that may serve as potential evidence of past or ongoing human rights abuses in Afghanistan. They highlight that such an archive could be used for future efforts to provide justice and accountability.

    Tech Against Terrorism was previously mentioned in a report by Human Rights Watch, as they state the TCAP may play a role in the archiving of removed material for the potential evidence of war crimes.
     
  • ExTrac has published a threat assessment on the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). The report can be accessed here.
     
  • Moonshot Team has published a report from their multi-platform study of the online incel ecosystem. Read the report here.
     
  • Jigsaw has released a report in which it explores the human cost behind internet shutdowns and offers a roadmap to protecting societies and communities against resulting disruptions.

Tech Policy

  • Internet shutdowns: The new authoritarian weapon of choice: Issie Lapowsky discusses the rise of internet shutdowns.  Lapowsky notes that “over the last decade, governments worldwide have intentionally shut down the internet at least 850 times, with a whopping 90% of those shutdowns taking place over just the last five years”. Lapowsky uses Jigsaw and AccessNow’s recently published report, which documents the history of internet shutdowns over the last decade, the economic toll of these shutdowns, and what governments and the broader business and civil society community can do to stop this grave human rights violation. Lapowsky stresses that internet shutdowns have drawn attention to the role internet service providers play in countries where very few of them exist. This is because it can halt the web with “just a few phone calls”, while in countries where there are thousands of ISPs the sheer size provides a degree of protection. (Lapowsky, Protocol, 01.09.2021).

Gender-based extremism and terrorism

  • Incel Culture: What we’ve learned from investigating Plymouth attacker’s digital footprint: Blyth Crawford and Florence Keen discuss their analysis of the Plymouth attacker’s – who killed five people in Plymouth – England in August, Reddit and YouTube accounts. Crawford and Keen conclude that the attacker’s online footprint reveals a complicated picture. Though they can confirm that he was familiar with incel tropes and expressed views that were steeped in misogyny, his social media also suggests he may have attempted to distance himself from the incel label. He additionally appeared to struggle both with his mental health and his relationship with his mother. Crawford and Keen note that the explicit motivations which triggered the attack remain unclear but that the attacker clearly had diverse grievances. They stress that this indicates the need for a broader conversation about how involvement with misogyny online, including the incel subculture, may interact with a person’s other personal problems to help understand how such violent acts happen. (Crawford and Keen, Vox Pol, 01.09.2021).

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