Alternarration: Online Radicalisation and the Contribution of Youth Work

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All content of this publication were produced as part of one of three outputs of the Erasmus Plus project “Youth Alternarration: Combating Radicalization of Young People in Online Spaces”. PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE The information in this publication may not be reproduced, in part or in whole and by any means, without charge or further permission from the partners supporting the research paper: Peshkar (UK), CID (Republic North Macedonia) and Out of the Box International (Europe). For permission to reproduce the information in this publication, please contact Peshkar: PARTNERS Peshkar is UK based charity established in 2000 with a commitment to excellence in participatory arts with practice framed around our brand values of ‘participation,’ ‘inspiration,’ ‘innovation’ and ‘progression.’ We expect participants to be inspired by our innovative policy and practice to the extent that one will progress to a higher level of arts engagement either as a persistent audience member, cultural content producer or emerging artist or arts professional. Our main aims are to advance education for the public benefit through the promotion of arts with particular but not exclusive reference to cross art forms working with young people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Centre for Intercultural Dialogue (CID) is running the youth support system in the Kumanovo municipality known among youth as the “Multi Култи” youth centers. The main aim of these youth centers is to establish ground for sustainable multi ethnic cooperation by fostering intercultural learning and communication among children and young people. In addition, this is made possible by promoting democratic citizenship and fostering active participation of youth within the main decision-making processes of the community. Since the establishment of the first “Multi Култи” Youth Center in 2010, a neutral platform was created where youth from different ethnic backgrounds follow joint activities. The youth work offered by CID annually gathers over 2000 beneficiaries. Out of the Box International is European Network which brings together different actors working on social innovation and advocating for a more solidar Europe, with mission to develop and shape innovative policies in social entrepreneurship, social cohesion, open digital environment, and further enhancement of the European project. Our Member Organisations are Expert Non-Governmental Organisations, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), Municipalities and Universities ensuring a variety of expertise and experience in building different kind of innovative social


projects. We are experts in different EU policy areas such as cohesive policies, social entrepreneurship, open digital environment or enlargement. Our target groups are young people, citizens, business, CSOs and authorities. We believe that innovation, fresh ideas and active involvement of citizens in the political processes all together represent the sine qua non of making our societies better, fairer,more sustainable and just. The Headquarters of the organization are based in Brussels.

PROJECT “Youth Alternarration: Combating Radicalization of Young People in Online Spaces� provides young people and youth workers with a unique opportunity to be change-makers. The digital resources and materials platform stands to be the only one of its type across Europe that has combating hate speech and violent radicalization training and development agendas and youth engagement interwoven within the fabric of the initiative. Alter-narration will be a premium example of action learning involving a multitude of new skills for participants. The premise of Alter-narration is to empower young people within different geographical regions to conduct capacity building via digital means that relate to their existence in the EU youth policy. The aim of the project is to inform and inspire positive action.

Authors: Wanda Alarcon Ferraguto, Gabriella Civico, Maram Anbar any others involved. Editor: Marko Paunovic


Published by Out of the Box International, Peshkar and CID Brussels, Belgium 2018. TABLE OF CONTENTS:







3.1 Current situation and information on the forms of online radicalization and hate speech at the European level


3.1.1 Violent Radicalisation


3.1.2 Online Violent Radicalisation


3.1.3 Trends


3.2.1 Regional decisions and sovereignty: Europe


3.2.1 The Global approach




#WordsMatter by the Tim Parry and Jonathan Barr Peace Foundation


Exit Hate Campaign




#NotInMyName by the Active Change Foundation


Abdullah X


Storytelling and online resources


4. Conclusions and policy recommendations


5. Annexes



1.SUMMARY The concept of ‘radicalisation’ as a term that conveys the process through which an individual adopts an increasingly extremists set of beliefs and aspirations, remains largely contested by researchers and practitioners especially when linked to violent extremism or terrorism. Radicalisation leading to violent extremism has become an increasing concern for policy-makers across the globe in the last two decades. The fear of individuals engaging in violent actions, motivated by their ideology, has triggered diverse responses and has prompted many policymakers to identify various means to prevent and counteract such violent actions. The broader concept of radicalization has served as a framework to understand the motivations, means and goals of violent radical groups, as well as the characteristics of the people they target as victims or recruit. With time, the Internet became a useful tool for violent extremist groups to contact and recruit more people, many of them young people. Free, borderless, mostly private, and with possibilities of anonymity, the web became an effective place for recruiters to contact people around the world regardless of their physical location. Many governments have engaged in developing and supporting initiatives to address the challenges of online radicalisation. This is especially true for those who find themselves vulnerable to losing their citizens to such violent causes. This research paper focuses on understanding and underlining some of the good practices around Europe, a major target for terrorists. This paper starts with a State of the Art (Chapter 3) where radicalisation and online radicalisation in Europe is explored. Chapter 4, outlines practices in Europe that strive to counter online radicalisation. Finally, Chapter 5, offers conclusions and policy recommendations to practitioners and policy makers. Based on literature review of data and current promising practices around Europe, the paper concludes with several recommendations on ways in which radicalisation and violent extremism can be better approached. This result is also based on observing several practices, in addition to targeted surveys and focus groups. Although the predominant way for radicalization and recruitment remain face-to-face, the Internet has become its most important complementary space for recruitment and tool for spreading the ideology of violence. Therefore, there ought to be an increased collaboration on activities implemented by governments, non-governmental organisations, private sector and civil society at large to engage and counter the narratives of radicalisation messages. Among other suggestions, the research indicates that there a need for a constant update and re-evaluation of activities and means of communication of the diverse actors, to ensure that the messages are reaching their target audience.


Through the elaboration of this research, we aim to contribute to the debate related to radicalisation leading to violent extremism, in order to provide relevant input to increase community resilience to protect young people.

2. INTRODUCTION This paper on “Radicalization in the Online Sphere: Forms and Prevention Practices” is one of three outputs of the Erasmus Plus project “Youth Alternarration: Combating Radicalization of Young People in Online Spaces”. The partners in the project are Peshkar (UK), CID (Republic North Macedonia) and Out of the Box International (Europe). It responds to the fact that as more violent and radical groups join the internet in the era of modern online communication, young people have become one of the most significant recruitment targets in Europe and the world. Radical and violent extremist groups operate online as a means to complement face-to-face recruitment. In response to this, there have been many initiatives developing countering narratives and instruments to counter radicalisation. The purpose of this paper is to deepen the understanding of these initiatives and highlight the components of good practices addressing online radicalisation. Policy Level In recent years, European and international policy-making institutions have been working on elaborating legislation, policies and strategies to address the challenges of radicalization and violent extremism based on research and practitioners input. As a result, there are a number of relevant and valuable policy frameworks and initiatives which are used as a reference in this area of work. These include: 1. The Convention on Cybercrime, known as the Budapest Convention (2001) 2. Communication from the European Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions supporting the prevention of radicalisation leading to violent extremism (2016) 3. Declaration on Promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education, also known as the Paris declaration (2015). 4. Strategic framework – Education & Training 2020, as a support to the Paris declaration. 5. The reform for data protection 2018. 6. Legislative Observatory, Prevention of radicalisation and recruitment of


European citizens by terrorist organizations 2015/2063 (INI). 7. Communication on Preventing Radicalisation to Terrorism and Violent Extremism: Strengthening the EU’s Response - COM(2013)941. 8. Although not a framework in itself, during the State of the Union 2018, the European Commission President evaluated several possibilities of action in regards to terrorist content on the web1. This is a major step towards the possible development of future frameworks at EU level that address violent radicalisation. 9. The Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN), an EU-wide umbrella network launched in 2011 and the RAN Centre of Excellence. Both serve to consolidate expertise and foster exchange of experiences and cooperation. 10.High-Level Commission Expert Group on Radicalisation (HLCEG-R) - Final Report (2018). 11.Council of Europe, Committee of Ministers adopted an Action Plan on the fight against violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism (CM(2015)74 19 May 2015). The above-mentioned documents and initiatives have provided guidance for many of the activities undertaken by European institutions and civil society organizations over the past years. However, in terms of implementation, a more practical and rapid approach needs to be adopted as technologies keep advancing; extremists groups change tactics; and accessibility to the internet and its content is becoming easier. Therefore, there needs to be more hands-on work in addition to the legal and theoretical frameworks in order to sufficiently cover the issues around violent radicalisation. This paper will look into the characteristics of good practices to support practitioners and policy-making in identifying suitable initiatives to combat online radicalisation. The paper will start with a State of the Art (Chapter 3), where we will first describe the current situation on the forms of online radicalization and hate speech on European level, and its impact. In the second part, we will provide an overview of current efforts and various online counter-radicalisation measures being taken by governments, social media companies and other actors in different parts of the world. Chapter 4, will outline good practices by both governmental and non-governmental actors. Finally, Chapter 5, will offer conclusions and policy recommendations based on the available data, a targeted survey organised by the researchers and practitioner-identified good practices to counter online radicalisation.

European Commission Press (2018). ‘State of the Union 2018: Commission proposes new rules to get terrorist content off the web’. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018. 1


3. STATE OF THE ART 3.1 Current situation and information on the radicalization and hate speech at the European level




3.1.1 Violent Radicalisation The term “violent radicalisation” has become a prominent topic in both national and international affairs in the era of online recruitment for violent extremism. Despite its extensive use however, there is no universally agreed definition of the term. In general, it is understood as ‘socialization to extremism which manifests itself in terrorism’2. The term appears to have been popularised as a new way of approaching the terrorism waves at the beginning of the current millennium, as the physical eradication and targeting of specific threats proved ineffective against the mobilisation of extremist groups. Radicalisation has many associated trends and policy frameworks ranging from counter-terrorism to hate speech. The concerns of Governments and institutions about the presence of radicalised individuals online and within society have, and are, increasing. Hate speech, a “particular form of offensive language that makes use of stereotypes to express an ideology of hate”3, has become a focus issue in the last decades. It has been approached at diverse levels, including from multilateral, unilateral and technological perspectives. Despite these efforts however, it remains difficult to control what users say or post online by establishing national laws. It is also difficult to identify what draws an individual to the messages of violent radical groups, and others not, when in the same context. On the multinational level, regional efforts have been made, but the borderless nature of the Internet is an obstacle for true regional effectiveness. Furthermore, questions on human rights, freedom of speech, and different national regulations are always at the forefront of the debate and regional cooperation. Online radicalisation, along with offline factors, is clearly an important element when it comes to violent extremism and terrorism. 3.1.2 Online Violent Radicalisation The Internet, one of the biggest influences on the modern world in terms of social communications and networking, has become a platform for billions of users worldwide. Among those billion users, violent groups are increasingly using the internet and social networks to recruit supporters. The Internet became a new and fresh platform to expand and experiment with new ways of Schmidt, A (2013). p.3. ‘Radicalisation, De-Radicalisation, Counter-Radicalisation: A Conceptual Discussion and Literature Review’. [Online] Accessed Aug 2018 3 Warner and Hirschberg, (2012). ‘Detecting Hate Speech on the World Wide Web’. Proceedings of the 2012 Workshop on Language in Social Media (LSM 2012). 19-26 2


radicalisation and recruitment. Cheap, borderless and uncontrolled, the world wide web provided an ideal environment for extremist groups to proliferate. Initially, the response, by governments and private sector companies providing online platforms, was to eliminate or ban any appearance or sign of radical content online4. However, the growing use and development of discussion forums on the dark web; exploitation of small social media websites, and eventually social networks, proved to be faster than it was possible that any restrictive or monitoring action could be. The development of social media has proved to be a particularly important element in this dynamic. It has expanded the spaces and lowered the risks of contacting people who are targeted by radicalisation. Studies show that individuals have been targeted due to certain vulnerabilities, such as exposure to inequality, exclusion, gender dynamics, age, or propension to feel “something is missing”5 from their lives. Social media has allowed radical groups to gather supporters who otherwise would not have been able to come together. Yet, it appears that online radicalisation is rarely a stand alone strategy but rather a complement to classic face-to-face recruitment6. The growing accessibility to the internet however means that it cannot be ignored, as it could become an even more serious threat in the future if not counteracted. Vulnerabilities for online radicalisation are present in any society, therefore, it could be assumed that online radicalisation could happen within any geographical region with Internet access. Europe finds itself facing this risk, at the end 2017 there were more than seven hundred million Internet users from the region, the biggest numbers after Asia7. This exposure has alarmed many countries in Europe and put the spotlight on the need to take action at national and regional level using the support of both local communities as well as the private sector. Most research findings identify Muslims as a specific target of radicalisation online. They are both a target for recruitment and a victim of terrorist attacks. Muslims communities are composed of a growing young population in Europe8 making it imperative to consider the influence of islamophobia and the overall political environment as possible factors for some individuals to be radicalised. In Kundnani, A (2012). ‘Radicalisation:The Journey of a Concept’. Race & Class. 54(2): 3-25. Alarid, M (2016). ‘Recruitment and Radicalization: The Role of Social Media and New Technology’. [Online] Accessed Aug 2018. 6 Schmidt, A (2013). ‘Radicalisation, De-Radicalisation, Counter-Radicalisation: A Conceptual Discussion and Literature Review’. [Online] Accessed Aug 2018 7 Internet World Stats (2018). [Online] Accessed Sep 2018 8 Pew Research Center (2017). ‘Europe’s Growing Muslim Population’. [Online] Accessed Aug 2018 4 5


countries such as the UK, news sources9 have observed an over-targeting of the Muslim community as part of the referral system in the national strategy PREVENT, as opposed to the referral of, for example, right-wing extremists. Other European countries, such as Macedonia, are dealing with a different problem regarding radicalisation. In this case it appears to happen in a more presencial way, with unauthorised religious leaders radicalising vulnerable individuals in makeshift prayer spaces10. By not setting up appropriate indicators that would measure change in behaviour towards violent extremism, whether through joining Islamist groups, right-wing or other extremist groups, any strategy designed for countering radicalisation will result in more grievances. This could be the result of the portrayal of mostly Islamic terrorism on the media and, parallelly, what some literature referred to as the ‘normalisation’ of right-wing extremism11. In addition to ethnicity and political affiliation; gender, age and socio-economic levels are important factors to take into consideration. As studies in 2015 suggested that “3,000 of the 20,000 foreign fighters who have travelled to join Daesh have been women”12, mostly from the West. Most recent studies indicate that an increasing number of Western women are converting and joining Daesh. Social and media pressure for the ‘perfect’ life, the changing gender roles, and unstable family life are leading vulnerable men and women to be manipulated through gender gaps found in many societies, including the European ones. European countries are facing a contemporary challenge in addressing the issues of their vulnerable communities and the increasing numbers of “Foreign Terrorist Fighters” joining terrorist groups. They are looking at how to address the growing number of individuals falling into the trap of violent extremist radicals in online networks who are giving them a false hope for a better life. 3.1.3 Trends ●

This millennium has witnessed unprecedented new technological advances and developments in communication. In the process, these technologies have undeniably modified the ways in which social interactions unfold across the planet, including the ones favoured by violent groups.

Versi, M (2017). ‘The latest Prevent figures show why the strategy needs an independent review’. The Guardian. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018 10 Qehaja, F & Perteshi, S (2018) 11 Schäfer, A & Streeck, W (2013). Politics in the Age of Austerity. Polity Press. 12 Osborne, A. (2017), p.2. ‘ENGENDERING EXTREMISM: Gender Equality and Radicalisation in the West Asia - North Africa Region‘. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018. 9


Europe has increasingly become a target for terrorism13. This raises concerns on the use of the internet as a means of communication for violent movements trying to recruit supporters and give instructions for terrorist attacks. Privacy has recently become one of the most controversial aspects to consider when looking at prevention of online radicalisation. Governments and private sector companies are facing a security dilemma: Too much privacy could foster the development of radical clusters, but too much control could hinder the value of customer freedom. Online radicalisation is a phenomenon that occurs with little to no effective regulation between borders and complements face-to-face recruitment. Radicalisation happens faster than expected. One report conducted by the Radicalisation Awareness Network of the European Commission indicated that radicalisation can happen within as little as two weeks14, but is tyically only extended to a few months. There are no limitations to where radicalisation could happen: schools, universities, prayer spaces, prisons, etc. are all potential places for recruitment. Across Europe there are vulnerable and marginalised populations susceptible to radicalisation. These vulnerabilities are characterised mainly by religion, gender, age and political satisfaction or dissatisfaction. There is a connection between the ongoing so-called migration crisis and the perceptions of society towards individuals vulnerable to being radicalised. The characteristics of a radicalised individual rely mostly on perceptions of ethical emotions or actions. This is particularly difficult to understand as ethics are shaped by society. Every individual has a particular personality and this is a major challenge for policy makers. Some actions from institutions and governments have been focused on the restraint of civil activity in order to ‘prevent’ terrorism. As a result, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have been underused as an important resource in the process of countering radicalisation online and offline despite the multiple advantages that their empowerment could provide15. Right-wing radicalization, when compared with Islamic radicalisation, is not receiving as much attention nor perceived as such a threat, despite its growth and increased outreach.

European Commission High-Level Commission Expert Group on Radicalisation HLCEG-R (2018). ‘Final Report’. [Online] Accessed Aug 2018. 14 RAN (2016). ‘Approaches to violent extremist offenders and countering radicalisation in prisons and probation’. RAN working paper. [Online] Accessed Aug 2018 15 Gervasoni, L (2017). ‘Building a Bridge: Engaging civil society in preventing all forms of violent extremism’. Euromed. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018. 13


3.2 Current efforts and various online counter-radicalization measures 3.2.1 Regional decisions and sovereignty: Europe Europe has made efforts towards standardising the ways in which internet regulations are applied, which is an important milestone towards a true international cohesion. One of the results was the Convention on Cybercrime of 2001, the first of its kind in the world, and it addressed several issues around the topic of hate speech in particular. The Convention has been ratified by more than fifty States, highlighting the commitment to international agreements on the topics of hate speech and other elements of cybercrime16. However, a large number of challenges remain unresolved. This is especially the case related to standardisation and engagement of businesses and governments. There are also as disagreements and conflicts resulting from inconsistencies between the Convention and national laws of some countries and regions. Another major advancement for European efforts was made through the Paris Declaration in 2015, where several commitments were made by multiple Education Ministers. In this document, they commit to promote citizenship and common values of freedom, as well as combining “efforts to prevent and tackle marginalisation, intolerance, racism and radicalisation and to preserve a framework of equal opportunities for all”. This declaration launched multiple changes among European initiatives in regards to violent radicalisation, which have been more addressed through EU funding17. However, violent radicalisation seems to be a new topic as opposed to radicalisation alone, which has created a difficulty for youth and social workers in general when trying to properly frame their activities in European territories. On privacy matters, Europe effectuated a major reform during 2018 on privacy, more specifically: data protection rules18. This reform included changes of rules for companies as well as a reminder of the rights of citizens. Part of the reasons for the change in the law are associated to the control that citizens could have on their personal data. This decision was followed up by the European Commission President in the State of the Union speech in September 201819, where there were new proposals and obligation for private companies to take terrorist content off the web. This included, among other things, financial Council of Europe (2018). ‘Chart of signatures and ratifications of Treaty 185’. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018. 17 European Commission (2016). ‘Education and radicalisation - the Paris Declaration one year on’. [Online] Accessed Aug 2018. 18 European Commission (2018). ‘ 2018 reform of EU data protection rules’. [Online] Accessed Aug 2018. 19 European Commission Press (2018). ‘State of the Union 2018: Commission proposes new rules to get terrorist content off the web’. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018. 16


penalties, a one-hour limit period to remove violent content, and a better definition of what terrorist content is. Despite these efforts, Europe continues to be susceptible to online radicalisation as a result of the borderlessness of the internet and the continuing presence of vulnerable and marginalised people and communities. Several aspects relevant to prevention of online radicalisation are still subject to unilateral policy-making of countries, hence, even with regional efforts, European decisions cannot override the sovereignty of a country or bilateral decisions of other countries. This is partly the reason why some European countries have actively engaged unilaterally in the process of dealing with radicalisation online in response to recognition of the problems with and within their vulnerable communities. An example of these countries include: ●

● ●

The United Kingdom designed a national program in 2006 named PREVENT, where there are some initiatives regarding online radicalisation through counter narratives and limited access in defined spaces. The Prevent strategy (2011) and the subsequent Prevent duty (2015) were required to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”20. This program is currently seeing a reduction of the referrals of extremism21, but this does not necessarily mean there is less radicalisation. The government of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has designed a strategy in 2018 to counter terrorism and violent extremism, focusing some of their efforts on training religious communities on how to counter online radicalisation. Other countries such as Spain and Austria have dedicated branches of their Government Ministries to deal with the issue of radicalisation. Private initiatives inside countries have emerged as well all across Europe in response to the increasing stories of recruitment across the continent. For example, campaigns such as the British online initiative “Not in My Name” became global. Other initiatives dedicated to coaching and providing aid to people, such as Exit Germany for right-wing extremists, have also proliferated. During the Policy conference held in Brussels: “Promoting Inclusion Preventing Extremism” organised by the European Volunteer Centre, the conclusions indicated that more inclusive societies are needed in order to give vulnerable populations a similar sense of community to that offered to them by extremist groups. They also mentioned the importance of

Versi, M (2017). ‘The latest Prevent figures show why the strategy needs an independent review’. The Guardian. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018 21 Versi, M (2017). “The latest Prevent figures show why the strategy needs an independent review”. The Guardian. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018 20


ensuring that “the freedom to be different is a reality for everyone, not just the privileged ones”22 Europe has increased concerns in regards to the cooperation between multiple actors of society23, as this is a challenging yet vital element in the process of creating efficient policies to deal with online radicalisation. In this sense, the aims towards standardising the practices between the public and the private sector are becoming increasingly important in the process of network developing and sharing. Hence, even more coordination is needed in order to better apply and design initiatives to deal with violent radicalisation in Europe despite multiple achievements. European efforts are part of a bigger global circuit that is also vital for this process. 3.2.1 The Global approach When treating issues related to radicalisation and its associated terms, global actors have taken diverse approaches in regards to the possibility of establishing internet regulations. The initiatives in response to the issue have been applied mainly in terms of unilateral, multilateral and technological perspectives24. Although it could be concluded that unilateralism is the best solution to online radicalisation, the specific topic of internet regulation has proven to be a problem in this matter. On the national level, criminal agencies cannot proactively verify the multiple publications that exist online unless proven to be a public crime. In response, governments try to implement privacy frameworks to control web contents. On the other hand, unilateral decisions are problematic to deal with online radicalisation due to the wide nature of the internet versus the sovereignty of Nation States, making unilateral decisions almost irrelevant when dealing with online regulations. However, this paradox has not stopped governmental attempts to seek solutions. Agreements between international sovereignties could help improve the issues regarding multiple legal frameworks25. In this sense, international organisations have provided an environment for countries to internationally deal with cybersecurity and other elements associated to violent radicalisation online. The United Nations Internet Governance Forum has been held yearly for the past 13 years, where organisations and individuals discuss policy issues related to internet security. In recent years, more regional and international organisations European Volunteer Centre (2016). ‘Policy conference: “Promoting Inclusion Preventing Extremism”’. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018. 23 European Commission High-Level Commission Expert Group on Radicalisation HLCEG-R (2018). ‘Final Report’. [Online] Accessed Aug 2018. 24 Banks, J (2010). ‘Regulating hate speech online’. International Review of Law, Computers and Technology. 24 (3), 233-239. 25 See 19 22


have increased their interest on the topic of cybersecurity, for example, the Organisation of American States (OAS) has diverse divisions dedicated to the topic26. The Forum has also been including national and local civil society organizations to speak of their experience on the ground. The unilateralism of several countries still represents an obstacle to the achievement of international standard rules. On the technological aspect, Internet providers and other technological industries could help prevent the propagation of hate speech and other forms of radicalisation, but this can collide with national rules. Furthermore, in practice, banning and removing content or individuals has resulted in the creation of more hate-based groups online. In response, several companies have tried establishing diverse measures such as: ● In mid 2018, Twitter announced a partnership with academics to apply new measures in regards to hate speech, or “uncivil discourse”, changing the metrics of the social media application. This was after a request for proposals from different members of society27. Until recently it was not possible to report terrorist or violent extremism content on Twitter. Terrorists were creating fake accounts to spread news on their “successes” and the work they do. ● Facebook is very clear about their prohibition of hate speech on their website28. In the first quarter of 2018 they took down 1.25 million pieces of violent extremism content. If there is a post with apparent hate speech, the post gets assessed by a specialised team, deleted and banned if necessary, and the user either banned or blocked. In cooperation with other tech companies, they have been providing trainings to small web developers to improve their capacities in identifying and taking down hate speech and violent extremist content. ● However, these and other platforms have been controversial. Supporters of diverse ideologies29 say the websites have been ‘shadow banning’ them, as a challenge to their freedom of speech, for following a political agenda. ● There could also be other ways of preventing the creation of content that incites radicalisation or hate speech, but it is a polemic issue that collides with diverse conventions on privacy. At the same time, some fear that it could become an instrument of corruption and censorship based on political interest. OEA (2018). ‘Seguridad Cibernética’. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018 Gadde, V & Gasca, D (2018). ‘Measuring healthy conversation’. Twitter. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018 28 Facebook (2018). ‘Hate Speech’. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018. 29 Wisniewski, D (2017). ‘Stop Facebook from ShadowBanning Opposing Opinions’. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018; Stack, L (2018). ‘What Is a ‘Shadow Ban,’ and Is Twitter Doing It to Republican Accounts?’. The New York Times. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018 26 27


Despite the challenges, it is evident that the ideas and attitudes around violent radicalisation have started to change. Studies on the subject try to better understand its techniques, sources, means and motivations of both the transmitters and the receptors. These studies also try to deepen the understanding of related topics such as the influence of gender, age, and other aspects of human life. At the same time, there are many projects working on the field and new waves of initiatives trying to deal with radicalisation online. As a platform in continuous development, it is important to propose effective and sustainable initiatives in order to make the Internet a tool for peace instead of violence. This study has gathered some of these initiatives as examples of good practices for countering the presence and activities of radical groups on the web and therefore, violent radicalisation online. 4. PROMISING PRACTICES -

#WordsMatter Foundation









This campaign was developed in 2018 by the Tim Parry and Jonathan Barr Peace Foundation, which was created after the attacks of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1993). The hashtag seeks to raise awareness on the language used to refer to members of terrorist groups, especially in the media. Terminologies such as ‘lone wolf’, ‘soldier’, ‘mastermind’, among others, tend to implicate positive ideas towards the referred individuals. As a result, these representations of terrorists and violent actors could be considered as glamorisation and even glorification of their actions, indirectly validating them30. As part of the campaign, the foundation will show a series of clips from survivors of terrorist attacks mostly around Europe, in order to show a new perspective on the terminologies that should be used to refer to members of radical groups. This initiative proposes an alternative counter narrative directly to the producers of news and media, as these terms could be the first step into validating the actions of violent extremists, its design could be used in different geographical settings depending on the chosen presenters and stories. -

Exit Hate Campaign

This campaign developed in 2016 to tape and submit videos of former members of hate groups around Europe. In these videos, the former members explained why they left in a personal way. The project expected to show a visual counter narrative to the reasons why an individual would join an extremist group. Their Davies, C (2018). ‘No ‘lone wolf’: media urged to take care over terrorism vocabulary’. The Guardian. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018 30


aim was to break the cycle of violence that characterises radical groups through the compilation of reasons from real European members of society. This initiative could be considered a type of hybrid in the making of a campaign, as it obliges the participants and the makers to mobilise within a geographical region. By using genuine ex-members of the groups, the message could be more comprehensible to actual members of radical groups, as the message from an ex-supporter could be more credible than that of a distant member of an organisation. This kind of initiative could be improved by focusing the videos to specific targets. Also, a main obstacle is the lack of interactiveness, but the accessibility makes this kind of campaign an easy one to spread and become mainstream on the media. -


This initiative was created in 2000 and their focus is on providing alternative exits for members of extreme ideologies, particularly right wing extremism in Germany. The network provides research sources, counseling and other forms of initiatives, mostly in an online form. In this way, Exit Germany is an organisation dedicated to deal with countering extreme right violence and extremism. Among other initiatives, they supported ‘Donate the hate’ in collaboration with Aktion Deutschland Hilft. This initiative describes itself as an ‘involuntary’ charity and has interesting elements that work fast in response to hate speech31. It works in the following way: 1. A person posts a comment supporting hatred or hate speech online, mainly on Facebook. A partner replies with an image saying thank you, triggering an involuntary donation. 2. 1 Euro is directed towards the campaigns related to these topics. The money had been previously collected through donations. 3. The campaign has proven successful in terms of donations, fundraising approximately 71.000€. -

#NotInMyName by the Active Change Foundation

This campaign based on a hashtag (#) was initiated by young British muslims in order to “show their solidarity against ISIS and their actions. See how a simple message can be shared to show how ISIS is misrepresenting Islam”32. It quickly spread internationally, especially on Twitter, where the hashtag system creates trends and measurable indicators of a topic raising its trend. The campaign became a focus for the international media and multiple sources of news. Also,

31 32

Donate the hate (n.d). [Online] Accessed Sep 2018 #NotInMyName (n.d). ‘About’. [Online] Accessed Aug 2018


at least two major country leaders, Barack Obama and David Cameron, made a specific mention to the project and the hashtag33. The advantage and disadvantage of these kinds of campaigns is the spread capacity they have. Because they depend on people constantly sharing and keeping the conversation going, these campaigns risk quick and, sometimes, forgettable extinction. On the contrary, if used well, these campaigns can become well known globally and a symbol of easy-to-remember phrases such as ‘not in my name’ to relate to a specific problematic: Extremism. To improve these initiatives, an element of education or experience sharing should be included, so the message does not get lost in empty repetition. -

Abdullah X

This was initially an offline initiative that became a hybrid through the creation of multiple social media accounts (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook). Abdullah X is a cartoon character developed by an ex-supporter Islamic extremist. Based in the UK, Abdullah X was initially portrayed in a series of comics and later videos of Abdullah dealing with situations where radicalisation towards extremism plays a major role. The intention is to create a character that can be relatable for younger populations and “safeguard the lives of young people from harm and those who seek to harm them”34. This initiative is an example of the transition to a hybrid model of action. The target is clear, the method is creative and alternative, and the message is also clear. On the other hand, it is important to create a sustainable continuity to these kinds of projects, as social media platforms and comics need periodic updates to keep the followers interested on a longer term. -

Storytelling and online resources

A number of people have taken to the web to write their stories and speak for the world of the internet to listen. These blogs put together personal accounts about family members or friends who were drawn to violent extremism. Sometimes, the stories are their own, where they narrate how they were lured into the world of violence, or their journey in bringing back a loved one or a family member.

See 27 Abdullah X (n.d). ‘What I do’. [Online] Accessed Sep 2018. 33 34


In addition to the above mentioned testimonies, online platforms and initiatives sharing knowledge and good practices by local groups, civil society organisations or institutions are becoming a rich resource for information and ideas. Some of these include: -




Against Violent Extremism (AVE) Leaders Telling a Different Story - Stopping Violent Extremism Community response to extremism - a film by a Muslim community in Bristol Extremely Together - Kofi Annan Foundation (youth/victims of terrorism) Education Against Hate I am your protector Online Civil Courage Initiative (#civilcourage) Extreme Dialogue One to One (online intervention) Somos Mas ProtectDefenders HELP Radicalisation Prevention Project YouthCan The A to Z of a successful online campaign Review of Educational Initiatives in Counter-Extremism Internationally: what works?




RAN collection of approaches and practices - Preventing Radicalization to Terrorism and Violent Extremism f Hackathon events to build a community of tech savvy youth to come up with apps and digital campaigns to stop violent extremist content

4. Conclusions and policy recommendations These policy recommendations are based on the results of the literature review surveys, interviews and focus groups that were conducted as part of the study. They aim to deepen the understanding of the best practices to counter radicalisation online and possible new ways of doing so. 1. Experience has shown that ignoring or eradicating radicalised people or online communities has only propagated more clandestine spaces for more hatred and violence. It is vital to identify the elements that characterise both the violent groups and the vulnerable people. Age, sex, religion, gender and other demographic aspects can turn an individual into a vulnerable target. A good practice tailors its plans and message to specific target groups instead of being too general. 2. Research is an important element for the continuation of work in regards to countering radicalisation online. Investment in further research is needed in order to develop and update the efforts in a faster and more efficient way. This will be critical in defining a proper framework to understand radicalisation as a concept, in order to truly define the characteristics of a radicalised person or the processes of radicalisation and deradicalisation. 3. Funding will also be necessary for small and local initiatives organised by local civil society organisations or formal or informal youth groups. These could be the best messengers in any counter-narrative campaign. 4. Due to the speed in which radicalisation can happen, youth workers should engage in fresher, faster and more innovative mainstreaming approach, for example, using social media influencers as faces for counter narratives to get to younger audiences. Part of the problem of many online campaigns is caused by lack of connection to what the target population actually likes. 5. Youth work needs to make efforts to turn initiatives into hybrids of online and field work. This can be done by analysing current efforts and visualising possible applications on the online or offline fields. For


example, creating an online version of the Danish Aarhus model of reintegration to society, or turning a social media campaign into a tangible and visible mobilisation. 6. Civil society needs to take the lead and begin their own initiatives in a voluntary capacity if necessary. Many effective campaigns have begun through mainstreaming of community networks. Youth organisations could become a direct link to build a sustainable way of empowering society and countering radicalisation online. Local organisations and young people understand better the local context and the needs of their community and should be better empowered to act. 7. Policymakers need to conduct a deep evaluation of social media and the terms that surround the creation of contents, as well as the ways in which initiatives promote themselves. In this sense, there must be an increase in the efforts towards a more standardised multilateral agreement to deal with radicalisation online. 8. Europe is not an isolated actor in dealing with the challenges of online radicalisation, more work needs to be done in order to standardise and connect different practices across different geographic areas. 9. Constant revision of the ways of treating violent recruiters online in order to understand how they work is required. The ways in which they communicate share the same characteristics of any person who wants to be noticed online. Counter narratives should consider this to become more efficient, fast and interesting. 10.Engagement and partnerships between governments, businesses and civil society, especially the latter is needed, in order to get solutions out of the clustered vision of organisation networks. 11.Policy makers and practitioners in general should consider using similar frameworks as those used by violent extremist groups to contact and recruit supporters, such as the deep/dark web, anonymous forums, discussion boards and social media in general. 12.Understanding that a radicalised individual can often be identified through some characteristics or by their attitudes and/or changing attitudes, then counter-radicalisation efforts should also be targeted towards family and associated social circles - sports clubs, schools, universities, etc. In order to provide the necessary support and assistance for individuals at risk of radicalisation. Radicalisation is undeniably a threat to the development and well-being of communities. The use of the Internet for violence through the recruitment of vulnerable people is a true and visible result of other structural problems in society. By building on this topic, new sources for understandings radicalisation could open the paths for effective and lasting solutions to both the roots and the


results of these issues, to empower the current generations and the ones to come towards the use of Internet for peacebuilding and peacekeeping. 5. Annexes 5.1 History of the term ‘radicalisation’ and perceptions Radicalisation has become an increasingly important topic during the last decades as bigger and more violent movements gained momentum online. However, definitions surrounding the term vary in many ways across the academic world: ● ●

Although used widely, the word radicalisation was coined in a way that related mostly to terrorism, especially Islamic terrorism. The lack of definition for radicalisation and terrorism has slowed possible solutions to it, turning it into a projection of the ideological views of governments35. There is also a lack of insight into the past, as ‘radicalisation’ seems to be associated only with recent events at the beginning of the century, and not cases as, for instance, Nazism during the Second World war.

The historical trajectory that led to the use of the term ‘radicalisation’ has been analysed in the academic world36. Initially, decisions to engage in violent extremism or political parties were attributed to biological traits. Eventually, more recent times witnessed the development of Islamic terrorism, where no other explanation than ‘evil’ could be given by governments and academics. As a result, efforts were focused on eradicating any sights of radical movements, believing that there was no justification or solution to it. However, around 2004, further terrorist attacks proved that this treatment of extremism was not fruitful on itself on a long term basis. Thus, ‘radicalisation’ emerged as a proxy to break the previous treatment to terrorism. Albeit the definitions are not conclusive, academics normally classify radicalisation as a process. The results of radicalisation are also contested, but some studies are now focusing on the means these groups use to recruit people. For example, Daesh’s has been deeply studied as an example of ‘violent extremism’37. Like other groups, their strategies are based on a challenge to modernity and a political statement. To some academics, It seems like there is a Schmidt, A (2013). ‘Radicalisation, De-Radicalisation, Counter-Radicalisation: A Conceptual Discussion and Literature Review’. [Online] Accessed Aug 2018 36 Kundnani, A (2012). ‘Radicalisation:The Journey of a Concept’. Race & Class. 54(2): 3-25. 37 Lesaca, J (2017). ‘Violent extremism in the context of postmodernity’ in Club de Madrid. Preventing Violent Extremism, Leaders Telling a Different Story. [Online] Accessed Aug 2018 35


“crisis of modernity”, in which extremist groups know what they are fighting against - the current global political model - but don’t know what their proposals are. Nevertheless, their strategy has been based on winning “the hearts and minds” of groups that have been marginalised and “abandoned” over the last decades. On the other hand, one of the reasons alternative or counter-narrative strategies have not been as successful is that governments are ‘fighting’ the ideology of extremist groups, yet they remain incapable of providing an alternative story or narrative to change the minds of foreign fighters or radicalized individuals. 5.2 Resources Links of all the references in the text, as well as some document titles: ●

Internet in Europe Stats Internet User Statistics & 2018 - Population for the 53 European countries and regions

Radicalisation, De-Radicalisation, Counter-Radicalisation: A Conceptual Discussion and Literature Review (2013)

Europe’s Growing Muslim Population

The latest Prevent figures show why the strategy needs an independent review

Politics in the age of austerity ht%20in%20Post-Security%20Europe%20proofs.pdf

The unexplored nexus: issues of radicalisation and violent extremism in Macedonia df

Women and P/CVE (Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism) (2017)

23 0and%20Women%20Presentation.pdf ●

High-Level Commission Expert Group on Radicalisation (HLCEG-R) (2018)

Why the internet is putting rubber ducks on heads of ISIL fighters

Hate Speech

Stop Facebook from ShadowBanning Opposing Opinions

What Is a ‘Shadow Ban,’ and Is Twitter Doing It to Republican Accounts?

Recruitment and Radicalization: The Role of Social Media and New Technology

Declaration on Promoting citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination through education (2015) hip-education-declaration_en.pdf

Approaches to violent extremist offenders and countering radicalisation in prisons and Probation (2016) Radicalisation: the journey of a concept


=rep1&type=pdf ●

Detecting Hate Speech on the World Wide Web

Regulating Hate Speech online


Seguridad cibernética No ‘lone wolf’: media urged to take care over terrorism vocabulary

Leaders Telling a different story

Convention on Cybercrime

Building a bridge: engaging civil Society in preventing all forms of violent extremism mism_Luca_Gervasoni_EuromedSurvey2017.pdf/ PIPE: Promoting Inclusion Preventing Extremism

Radicalisation ublications/2016/communication-preventing-radicalisation_en.pdf

Strategic framework – Education & Training 2020