‘The terrorists are winning the online war’

Hardline: 73% of Britons think the possession of ISIS propaganda should be illegal.

Should internet companies be doing more to stop online radicalisation? This week The Telegraph exposed a video of British jihadis in ISIS territory. Many had been recruited on the internet.

They are known as “The Beatles”. Four young British men, slouched on sofas and armchairs, phones in hand. There are few clues indicating their location. But a rifle leaning against the wall gives the game away.

The footage, obtained by The Telegraph, comes from the Islamic State from 2014. The men are four jihadis. Three of them are now dead, including Mohammed Emwazi (aka “Jihadi John”), the masked executioner who murdered James Foley, Alan Henning, Peter Kassig and others.

Many of them initially met online. One of the members of the group is Junaid Hussain, a friend of whom has said: “He wasn't radicalised by a mosque, or by ISIS. He was radicalised by a computer.”

Last week a report found that 65% of British people thought that internet companies were not doing enough to counter online radicalisation.

Although ISIS propaganda has declined on everyday platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, the group has maintained a consistent output of videos, radio bulletins and magazines via encrypted apps like Telegram, as well as its own network of websites.

However, Graeme Wood, an ISIS expert, has pointed out that the vast majority of foreign fighters are not primarily radicalised online.

Extreme measures

“Internet companies must do more,” say many Western leaders. Theresa May has urged companies to “go faster with the detection and removal of terrorist content online”. The internet can spread ideas from the Syrian desert to the West in a second. Solve that, and you solve the problem.

“But the terrorists will always be one step ahead,” reply sceptics. Take them off Twitter, and they will re-emerge elsewhere. This is a huge distraction. The IRA was able to plot attacks long before the internet arrived. Tackling the social and ideological causes of radicalisation is the answer.

You Decide

  1. Can internet companies be blamed for online radicalisation?

Activities

  1. Write down five questions you would like to ask someone who travelled to fight for ISIS.

Some People Say...

“The internet, by its nature, creates extremists.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
A report has found that a large majority of people feel that internet companies should be doing more to combat online radicalisation. A video has now emerged of four of Britain’s most infamous ISIS fighters together in Syria in 2014. It is believed that many of them initially met online.
What do we not know?
Whether this form of recruitment can ever be eliminated entirely.

Word Watch

Mohammed Emwazi
Emwazi was killed in a US drone strike in 2015.
James Foley, Alan Henning, Peter Kassig and others
These videos all followed a similar pattern: a desert background, the victim in an orange jumpsuit and Emwazi making a statement before killing his victim.
Magazines
Experts have noticed a decline in the quality of ISIS’s main propaganda magazine, Dabiq, which had once been a highly professional-looking publication.
Encrypted
Whereby messages are coded in such a way that only authorised parties can see them.

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