Preventing violent extremism online

7 Apr 2016 - 8 Apr 2016


[Update] Report: Preventing violent extremism online

by Emanuele Sacchetto

In the framework of the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism, an unofficial side event on preventing violent extremism online took place in Geneva on 8 April 2016. The event provided a platform for representatives of the public and private sectors to discuss measures to address pressing challenges in relation to violent extremism online and to explore effective responses. 

Violent extremism and terrorism online represent two core issues that we need to address in order to have a safer world today. The panel posited the main goal that we need to achieve: better cooperation between the different stakeholders.

Fighting against violent content, such as incitement of terrorist activities, is a matter for governments. However, it is evident that governments need the ICT industry’s cooperation to eliminate violent content posted online and to prosecute those who post it.

Peter Stern, Facebook’s Policy Manager, stressed that Facebook represents a unique platform that allows people to express their opinions freely, but that a delicate balance between freedom of expression and posting of violent content has to be found. Facebook’s policies try to define which content should be banned from the platform. It then identifies and removes this content. But he underlined that it is the duty of governments to bring together different actors and to improve cooperation between them.

Another private sector representative, Microsoft’s Steve Crown, focused attention on the lack of a common definition of cyber-terrorism and violent content. He, too, underlined the importance of cooperation and dialogue among the different actors, but above all, the need for clear definitions. The importance for ICT companies to elaborate guidelines on deciding what constitutes inappropriate content that has to be removed was also stressed.

Moreover, in order to enhance cooperation between the public and private sectors, Marc Porret, legal officer at the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, reaffirmed the importance of rebuilding trust and providing more channels of dialogue by creating different regional and international forums.

At European level, the role of Europol in fighting against violent content online was reaffirmed, in cooperation with governments and the private and public sectors. Alberto García, Senior Specialist at the Europol Internet Referral Unit, also announced the creation of an advisory group of experts that will help Europol in achieving its goal, providing a wider and more holistic perspective of the issues.

In conclusion, since violent extremism online represents a delicate issue that affects not only the online community, but the whole world, it is necessary to concretely enhance cooperation and dialogue between the private and public sectors. Once again, the multistakeholder model will probably be the best solution to this global issue. 

Event announcement

A side-event on preventing violent extremism online will take place on 8 April 2016, in the framework of the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism – The Way Forward. The conference is co-hosted by the Government of Switzerland and the United Nations, and will take place on 7-8 April, at the United Nations Office in Geneva. 

The Geneva Conference will provide an opportunity for the international community to share experiences and good practices in addressing the drivers of violent extremism and to build support for the Plan of Action. The first of the conference day will be dedicated to a meeting of senior experts on key issues related to the prevention of violent extremism. The second day will be the high-level segment of the Conference including interventions at the ministerial level. Heads of international and regional organisations and heads of UN agencies will also participate in the discussions on action at the national, regional and global level during the day.  

See the conference webpage for more information.