Preventing youth from online violent radicalisation

13 Nov 2018 15:00h - 16:30h

Event report

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This session dealt with the role of UNESCO, IFAP and governments in preventing youth radicalisation online. Difficulties in preventing youth radicalisation while upholding freedom of expression were underlined.

Ms Chafica Haddad, Chair of the Information for All Programme (IFAP), gave an overview of IFAPengagement in preventing youth radicalisationwhich leads to violent extremism. She stated that the exact roles and processes via which Internet and social media contribute to the radicalisation processes need to be further explored. She stressed that IFAP will continue supporting regional and international cooperation, capacity building research, the exchange of good practices, and development of broad understanding and capabilities to respond to these ethical challenges.

Ms Divina Frau-Meigs, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, pointed out that research shows social media were facilitating but were not the causal reason for radicalisation. She underlined that there are multiple information disorders: radicalisation, disinformation, propaganda, and manipulation. The key is to build the competencies, train young people who have been born with the Internet to master it, to keep in mind the competencies perspective, which is often overshadowed by good practices. She underscored the importance of transmission of digital media literacy.

Mr Marc Hecker, Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI), France, emphasised that offline aspects of radicalisation processes need to be taken into account as well as the web aspects of them. Terrorists use the Internet in different ways – as a library of radical content, as a recruitment tool, as a communication tool inside an already constituted terrorist group, and for planning attacks. Different methods have been tried out to counter terrorist use of the Internet like law enforcement identifying and apprehending terrorists, counter-messaging by crafting and sending a good message by an appropriate actor on the right platform. Hecker concluded that it is impossible to get rid of extremist content online, but that it is possible to make it harder for extremist organisations to reach a broad audience.

Ms Lillian Nalwoga, Internet Society (ISOC), Uganda, pointed out that a trend of using the Internet and social media as platforms for promoting terrorism through recruiting young people has emerged in Africa. There is a struggle on the continent to provide laws that prevent online radicalisation but do not curtail freedom of expression. In her opinion, only three African countries have strategies for preventing radicalisation online – Somalia, Kenya, and Nigeria. She underscored the necessity of the youth understanding how to use platforms for actual engagement instead of merely consuming content.

Mr Saddem Jebali, Net MED, Tunisia, spoke about preventing youth radicalisation online in Tunisia. Civil society organisations struggle with keeping their platforms sustainable beyond countering narratives. He pointed out that there is a need to monitor the new violent extremist groups’ recruitment because recruitment strategies evolve quickly. He also mentioned the high cost of production and distribution of communication materials and the high cost of research and the difficult access to the target audience, which is where mainstream media could play a bigger role.


By Andrijana Gavrilović