Impetus For Combatting Online Extremism Increases As Terrorists Grow Increasingly Sophisticated
1-9-2020 - Belgian and U.K. officials have expressed concern over the risk of individuals radicalizing online to terrorism. Belgian Federal Prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw discussed the challenge of “inspired terrorism,” which makes it difficult for authorities to identify single individuals who are influenced by extremist content online and motivated to violence. In the U.K., Chief Superintendent Nik Adams, national coordinator of the counter-extremism program Prevent, stated self-radicalized terrorists have become greater threats than attackers directed by ISIS. The young and vulnerable people, and particularly those with mental illnesses, are prime targets to be exploited by extremists online.
“Violent extremist ideologies continue to fuel terrorist activities across the globe,” said Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Executive Director David Ibsen. “Self-radicalization online continues to be a major challenge for counterterrorism authorities and policymakers. However, inaction is not an option given extremist groups’ relentless efforts to spread violence, hatred and fear online. The entire international community must stand united to tackle all forms of terrorism and radicalization in aim to eliminate extremism—both online and offline—from our world.”
There is no single pathway to radicalization which leads to terrorism and often involves different push-and-pull factors. For example, a mix of mental health issues, extremist convictions, and personal grievances can lead an individual towards radicalization. The CEP report, Guns And Glory: Criminality, Imprisonment And Jihadist Extremism In Europe, co-published with the European Policy Centre (EPC), examines the different pathways to radicalization.
Belgium has suffered several terrorist attacks since 2014. These include the 2014 attack at the Jewish Museum of Belgium, the 2016 Brussels bombings of Brussels Airport and Maelbeek Metro Station, and the 2018 attack in Liège. These terrorist attacks of recent years were largely perpetrated and coordinated by an underworld where crime and extremism blur together.
The threat level from international terrorism in the United Kingdom, set by the Security Service (MI5) and the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, is currently classed as “Severe.” Since the 7/7 London attacks in 2005, there have been a significant number of attacks on U.K. citizens, ranging from carefully orchestrated incidents by groups of terrorists to opportunistic attacks by radicalized lone actors. This includes the Manchester Arena attack in May 2017 and the Westminster attack in March 2017.
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