Reader’s Digest – 17 September 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 are pleased announce the launch of our new landmark report on terrorist use of end-to-end encryption (E2EE), which provides an in-depth examination of the risks related to terrorist and violent extremist abuse of E2EE services, outlining mitigation strategies for tech platforms and recommendations for policymakers and law enforcement. You can access the report here, and the executive summary of our findings, including our high-level recommendations,  here.
  • Our Head of Policy & Research, Jacob Berntsson, presented at the European Internet Forum (EUIF) workshop on risks related to the possible misuse of algorithmic amplification to disseminate terrorist and violent extremist content.
     
  • This week, our OSINT Analyst, Deeba Shadnia, presented at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) Specialised Training Workshop for Algerian practitioners on “using, handling and sharing information and evidence in cross-border investigations in terrorism cases”. Her presentation focused on an overview of current trends in how terrorists and violent extremists use the internet.

Top Stories

  • The Facebook Oversight Board has announced in its latest decision that Facebook was correct to reverse its original decision to remove content on Facebook that shared a news post about a threat of violence from the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian group Hamas. The Board has concluded that removing the content did not reduce offline harm and restricted freedom of expression on an issue of public interest.
     
  • The Brazilian Senate leader has announced that he would not consider President Jair Bolsonaro’s decree limiting social networks’ power to remove content based on their own terms of service, stopping a measure that had met with widespread opposition.

    To read more about online regulation in Brazil, please see our analysis in the recently published Online Regulation Handbook.
     
  • Kazakhstan’s parliament has approved a bill requiring owners of foreign social media and messaging apps to set up offices in the country or risk being blocked as part of a campaign against cyberbullying.
     
  • The UK government has published a report on “Exploring the role of the Internet in radicalisation and offending of convicted extremists”, which presents findings from a quantitative study that aimed to explore the role of the internet in radicalisation and offending of 235 convicted extremists in England and Wales.
     
  • French forces have killed Adnan Abou Walid al Sahraoui, leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), the French government announced on Thursday.

Tech Policy

  • How Wikipedia Grew Up with the War on Terror: In this piece, Stephen Harrison discusses the emergence of Wikipedia. Harrison’s analysis of the platform links it to its prominent role in many of the shocking events of the early 2000s, including the coverage of 9/11, which Harrison argues “helped make Wikipedia into the so-called last bastion of shared reality that it is today”. Harrison also sheds light on how certain events and their presentation on the platform resulted in Wikpedia’s policy changes over the years, such as their “semi-protection” policy, which mandated that the pages could only be edited by users who have registered a user account – and was later applied to entries for the 9/11 attacks. Finally, Harrison concludes that “Wikipedia’s growth trajectory after 9/11 helped brace the site early on from misinformation”, however, he recognises that the site is not immune to every challenge in this “post-truth” information environment. (Harrison, Slate, 08.09.2021.)

Counterterrorism

  • IntelBrief: Taking Stock of the Terrorism Landscape in the United Kingdom: In this brief, the Soufan Center discusses the current terrorist threat landscape in the UK. The brief alludes to the recently revealed insight into thirty-one “late stage” terror plots that were thwarted by British authorities over the past four years. Of the thwarted plots, the majority of these were linked to Islamist extremists. However, the brief notes that in addition to these, MI5 Director General Ken McCallum has noted that there is a “growing number” of plots by far-right violent extremists in the UK. The Soufan Center highlights that the UK has been proactive in proscribing far-right violent extremist groups and designating them as terrorists, which has set an important normative standard. (Soufan Center, 16.09.2021).

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