In our interconnected world, it’s easier than ever to access jihadist propaganda material on the internet.
And now, a report has offered new insight into how ISIS and other extremist groups operate online through producing videos, images, and articles to share with followers and attract new ones.
“The fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the other elements of the global jihadist movement has become the defining struggle of the early 21st century,” said former US military chief General David Petraeus, in a foreword to the report.
“That struggle has increasingly been contested not just on the ground, but in a new domain of warfare, cyberspace.”
Through measuring clicks, the report has identified which countries are home to the consumers of the greatest amount of jihadist propaganda.
Both the US and the UK feature on the list, at second and fifth respectively, with the UK registering more clicks than any other country in Europe. The other top countries in the ranking include Turkey first, Saudi Arabia third, and Iraq fourth.
“As a society, we are struggling to grasp the extent of the challenge and also appropriate ways of responding,” reads the report, released by centre-right think tank Policy Exchange. “It is clear that the status quo is not working. It is time for a new approach.”
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The 130-page report, entitled “The New Netwar,” found that tens of thousands of users are accessing jihadist content from all over the globe using platforms like Facebook and Twitter — which reportedly accounts for 40% of the identifiable traffic to jihadist content online.
And Policy Exchange claims that, despite ISIS being driven from its territories in Syria and Iraq, the group’s ability to create content hasn’t suffered.
“For at least a year, the production of content has continued despite the death of key figures, loss of territory, and ongoing fighting,” the report says.
ISIS produces more than 100 new articles, videos, and newspapers every week, sharing the content across a “vast ecosystem” of platforms.
The report specifically flags up recent terror attacks in London, saying that last week’s attack on a London tube train “merely underscored once again the ever-present nature of this threat.”
But Policy Exchange suggest that new laws criminalising reading content that glorifies terror could be a solution — and 74% of the Britons surveyed by the think tank backed the suggestion.
The suggested laws would criminalise the “persistent consumption” of extremist materials and ideology, but would not criminalise someone who simply “stumbles across” jihadist content.
In the UK, according to the BBC, it’s currently not a crime to possess material that glorifies terrorism.
“We know that Daesh [ISIS] pose a threat online and this report helps to highlight the scale of the issue,” said Home Secretary Amber Rudd. “I have made it crystal clear to internet bosses that they need to go further and faster to remove terrorist content from their websites and prevent it being uploaded in the first place.”
She added: “The internet cannot be used as a safe space for terrorists and criminals, and industries need to ensure that the services they provide are not being exploited by those who wish to do us harm.”