Evolving Threats: Countering Online Extremism

Techniques and tactics employed by terrorists evolve along with technology and society, and online radicalization and the use of the cyber domain as a platform for extremism are primary concerns.

Many recent terrorist attacks have been connected to online radicalization and dissemination of radical jihadi content, especially via social media. A recent publication by Policy Exchange, a U.K. think tank, provides extensive analysis on “the struggle against online jihadist extremism.” The report refers to the phenomenon of terrorism and radicalization via cyber platforms as “‘the new Netwar.'” It is broken down into three main sections: the use of the internet by the jihadist movement, future policy options, and assessment of public attitudes. The report calls for understanding that existing countermeasures are not successful and that society as a whole is responsible for taking on and solving the problem of online dissemination of jihadist content and the recruitment and radicalization of individuals.

While this report was created by a U.K. group, it has very relevant applications to U.S. homeland security in terms of future policy considerations and understanding the role of ideology in online jihadist content production and dissemination. The internet knows no state borders, and there is much to be learned by looking to other states’ responses to this type of global issue. This is especially critical as terrorist organizations retreat deeper and deeper into the cyber world, and states must prepare for and respond to threats originating in such places.

The HSDL has many resources on this topic. A recent report by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism analyzes the online structure, recruitment and attack profiles of several terrorist organizations. Additionally, for more resources related to Jihadist/Islamist domestic terrorism, check out these Featured Topics at the Homeland Security Digital Library: Lone Wolf Terrorism, Suicide Bombers, Global Terrorism, Domestic (U.S.) Terrorism, and Nuclear Weapons.

Non-registered users can access the Policy Exchange report here.