Ebook: Terrorism and the Internet
This is the first book to analyse the abuse of the internet for terrorism and crime purposes under two new perspectives: (1) The persuasion and involvement of women and children as specific target user groups, and (2) The development of new strategies to use extremist web forums as an open book in order to understand and gain insight into terrorist thinking. Web 2.0 can be even more: an open door for dialogue, deradicalisation and ultimately a way out of the cocoon of terroristic isolation. This book presents the results of a unique cooperation between Israeli and German research centers with outstanding contributions to innovative security research. Two international conferences in Berlin in 2008 brought together worldwide leading authors both from academia and government. Most recent research results challenge the actual treatment of terroristic web forums by governmental agencies. This remarkable publication will open your eyes both on the real risks of terroristic web activities and new counter strategies from analysis to dialogue.
This book compiles revised editions of the best papers of two international workshops that took place in Berlin, Germany, in 2008. Both workshops addressed the ways and forms, in which terrorist and extremist organisations make use of the Internet for their purposes. They also posed the question, whether their online activities were a valuable source of data to develop a better understanding of terrorist thought patterns, terrorist argumentation, the spectrum of available countermeasures, and which additional measures should be developed. While countermeasures in the field of Internet security have traditionally been understood as measures toward target detection and prevention of Internet activities, the workshop participants discussed, to which extent Internet tools and especially interactive blogs and forums could be used for spreading counterinformation, anonymous discussion, confession, and to provide a means of separation from terroristic ideology and thus for personal deradicalization. In discussion of these topics, ethical concerns of Internet analysis and measures had to be taken into account, whether and under which conditions it is acceptable to install online forums for interactive analysis and discussion.
In the following introduction, we briefly summarize the topics and outcomes of the two workshops in order to define the context within which the articles are situated before presenting the scope and aim of the book. Then we will draw general conclusions for further research. In conclusion, we give a very short overview of all articles, which are clustered around six thematic fields.
The first workshop gave particular priority to questions concerning two demographic groups, frequently targeted by web based activities of terrorist organizations that have received limited attention so far: How and to what extent have Internet activities of terrorists and terrorist organisations addressed women and children in particular? The second workshop analyzed the influence of the Internet on radicalization and deradicalization processes. While it is widely accepted that terrorist organizations instrumentalize the Internet to address and radicalize potential followers, it is only rarely discussed whether the Internet could be used to prevent people from engaging in that process, or, in case of preexisting radical inclinations, if it is possible, to use the Internet to deradicalize such individuals. This question has become the theoretical and methodological focus of the book.
Scope and Aim of the Book
In recent years, the web has become a major informational tool for terror organisations, in terms of marketing, recruitment and external as well as internal communications. Weblogs for supporters, of terroristic organisations, are quite easy to find, fairly open and offer a lot of information on terroristic organisations, terroristic patterns and ways of thinking. This situation gives researchers in the field of security studies the opportunity to use the Internet to develop a deeper understanding of terroristic organisations and their supporters, and to develop new possibilities of counter information and dialogue.
Especially young people engage in social networking, a feature commonly associated with the term Web 2.0, in order to actively take part in political discussions in an independent, autonomous manner. This makes the web an excellent source of authentic statements as analysis material. Analysing anonymous Internet discussions provides a deep insight into convictions, identities, discussion patterns and personal experiences. Web forums and web blogs can reflect changing attitudes, lines of thought, and ideologies. There is hardly a better source of material upon the basis of which to develop an understanding of individual and collective social stylizations in different subcultures.
One can distinguish between weblogs and web forums, although, there seems to be an increasing overlap between individual blogs and moderated forums. Growing numbers of weblogs offer the possibility to comment and thus interact and become or incorporate a forum. Group blogs often agree to have a (revolving) responsible moderator. A distinction can also be made between Internet forums with a more hierarchical structure of information and more chronologically organized web boards. Empirical research should include all types in order to examine how web users construct their often hybrid identities and to what extent they make use of this protected anonymous space. How do users adapt web debates for their own purposes? Do they typically tend towards mutual self-affirmation, or controversy? Which communicative patterns do the participants establish? And finally: Which kind of experience do they make in relation to tolerance and discrimination?
An understanding of terroristic organizations and the establishment of online dialogue for the purpose of deradicalization have, as of yet, not been sufficiently developed. The main agents in this regard, researchers and governmental agencies, still focus their efforts concerning the association of terrorism and the Internet on identifying targets and developing technologies to prevent Internet communication by terror organisations. It is no problem to collect a large amount of data from the Internet with spiders that, similar to Google, collect terrorist websites, blogs, forums etc. It is much more difficult to analyse these terabytes of data, which have meanwhile been collected. It is however not a technical problem but a fact that correlations found can only point towards certain underlying social mechanisms, i.e. causes, that can not be found via technical analyses. Consequently a close cooperation between engineers and social scientists is imperative in order to derive conclusions for effective countermeasures. Most representatives of special services present at the workshops confirmed that up to now they have not put enough emphasis on using the web as a data source to improve their understanding of behaviours, patterns and structures and even less as a tool for (anonymous) dialogue and counterinformation. At the same time, they agreed that the web is an excellent source to understand (de)radicalization processes, which is the basis of effective counterstrategies.
Some studies have empirically underlined the phenomenon of “self-radicalization”. But rarely are radical inclinations sparked endogenously. Instead, they are typically inspired from outside stimuli, in this case the web, chat groups, and other virtual groups as environments that foster radicalization. The workshop seeks to find out whether these virtual contexts “appear to be becoming more important as recruitment sources”. At the same time, the web offers appropriate contexts to study radicalization. As Taylor & Horgan (2007) have argued, a clear implication of thinking about radicalization as a process is that it provides a clear direction for psychological research: to understand the decisions made by the individual at particular times within a particular context. Methodologically, a glance at marketing research might be helpful, which has used clickstream data to understand navigation paths and the users’ shopping objectives. In marketing studies browsing behaviour has been dichotomised into goal-oriented (i.e. focused search) versus exploratory (unfocused or stimulus-driven search). Marketing researchers want to design websites that appeal to consumers. We can learn from their experience, when we try to find out, how individuals’ interact within the terrorist environment and how phases of (de)radicalization emerge.
An fact almost trivial in character but with far reaching consequences in respect to countermeasures, is that terrorism has a strong process dimension – terrorists are neither born nor do they fall from the sky but they develop over a significant period of time. Radicalization, as study results have shown, usually takes years. The problem is obviously that studying many slight changes over long periods of time is difficult. Furthermore, most countermeasures seem not to address the root of the problem but try to get a grip on the weed only after it finally appears. Obviously as long as the underlying processes are still at work, they are unlikely to be detectable. Consequently a major task will be to develop and implement long-term measures that address radicalization processes in their early stages. This is a point at which we are confronted with the negative side-effects of an increasing distrust between Muslim and Western people and societies. Case studies from Britain show that particularly families quickly become aware of radicalization processes among their children but do not know whom to contact outside of their community (and in most cases do not dare to, due to distrust). A major question is how radicalization develops in individuals. People are not born a terrorist, so it is essential to learn how it all begins and whether there is a way to reverse the process. There is wide agreement among researchers that profiling is not enough to pre-expose potential terrorists. The variance in profiles is too high. Hence, outlining the single stages of the radicalization process and the way in which it is fueled by terrorist organization websites is of great importance.
Various case studies show that there is an extensive debate among terrorist concerning the justification of attacks (“is it allowed for women and children?”, “what about the death of innocent people?”, etc.). To a large extent this debate takes place through the various interactive Web 2.0 channels (blogs, forums etc). Particularly at the early stages of radicalization many people are in search of direction. It seems highly promising to offer an alternative discourse using the same Web 2.0 resources. Why shouldn’t, for example, moderate Imams provide moderate guidance in particular to young people in search of it? The web can be used to counter radicalization threats and to relay information to halt or reverse such trends. For instance, the provision of information and arguments to moderate chat groups and forums can be of great help.
The articles of this book explore the possibilities of empirical research, dialogical political measures and ethical concerns.
Even with the large potential of empirical web analysis to be a high quality source for analysis and a vital tool for dialogue, certain ethical concerns remain and require constant reflection. In order to provide an overview of these reflections, it makes sense to differentiate between analysis in web forums and weblogs, active participation and the set up of web forums as “honey pots” for users, in order to analyze their behaviour.
Passive Analysis of Weblogs and Web forums
In regard to passive analyses of weblogs and web forums, one could argue that this concealed style of research is acceptable because the participation in this virtual area implies the acceptance of public accessibility. Additionally, most participants use nick names to hide their true identity. On the other hand, it is a staple of sound scientific practice in qualitative empirical research to ask permission from “test persons” for the use of their statements. Participants of discussions should, of course, be protected from later legal or social repercussion. Within ethnology, the discussion has developed somewhat differently than in sociology, as participatory observation has a long standing tradition in this discipline.
Of course it is an organizational issue to receive authorized permission in an anonymous setting. If nevertheless one manages to get authorization, another, bigger problem appears. The feeling of being analysed and observed can alter the behaviour of analyzed target groups. Thus, the non-reactive method’s main advantage of not influencing the statements of the subjects by intervening is lost.
What to do? Consequent anonymization poses a solution, if the aim of the empirical research is not the meticulous examination of single statements but the identification of general rather than individual tendencies. Another solution would be to use illustrative personal quotations only occasionally or even to avoid them all together. By these means, the analysis can be carried out without the permission of the participants and without impacting the data. The public character of the forum itself is not an ethical issue if the organizers of the forums grant unfamiliar and anonymous users access.
Active Participation in Web forums and Weblogs
In regard to active participation, the situation is different: Ethical concerns are more prominent but the tool holds great potential as an instrument for counterinformation, education, self-help and deradicalization. Developing this tool requires an ethical reflection comparable to the reflection on professional discretion, e.g. medical, pastoral or solicitory confidentiality.
Set up of Web Forums and Weblogs
Web forums and weblogs can be very useful as means of holding dialog. In exploring the implications of setting up web forums and weblogs for the purpose of research and online dialogues, it is not acceptable to mix them with “honeypots” for target identification.
Overview of Workshops
The first workshop took place in February 2008 in Berlin. The “Advanced Re-search Workshop” was titled: “Old threats, new channels – the Internet as a tool for terrorists; socio-technological aspects with a special emphasis on targeting women and children.” The workshop was divided into three panels: technological aspects, social aspects and thirdly a session on targeting women and children. The discussion involves many aspects:
• Women and children are more rarely suspected by authorities, which makes it attractive to recruit them for various kinds of support or even to carry out attacks.
• If we assume that most terrorists are radicalized over a period of time, terrorist organizations will ask themselves where, how and when this indoctrination can be performed most efficiently and effectively. Obviously young people can be more easily influenced. If we assume furthermore that in many societies women are in charge of education it appears promising to try to radicalize them in order to radicalize the next generation.
• For women and young persons, who, for whatever reason, do not want to or are not able to become actively or materially involved, the Internet can serve as a channel to support terrorism in various ways. In this context it should be kept in mind that women pose considerable attraction, as some terrorist groups use highly sophisticated setups to communicate via Internet (proxy servers, virtual private networks, various types of encryption) which demand expert level competency. Examples presented at the workshop showed that these competencies are usually provided by students or graduates – some of which are female.
• Two cases presented by participating special service officers described more subtle ways in which women have been exploited in the context of terrorist activities: In the first case an attractive female student contacted another student in a chat room pretending to be interested in dating him. The student agreed to meet and was murdered thereafter. A second case involved disguised terrorist websites trying to convince women in the European Union to marry extremists from Middle Eastern countries in order to achieve legal status in the European Union.
As the above demonstrates, there are various ways in which women and children can be abused by terrorist organizations in order to make them active or passive supporters of these groups. The primary aim of the workshop was to shed more light on that topic.
The session on technological aspects focused on two empirical studies: The dark web project presented by Hsinchun Chen (University of Arizona, http://ai.arizona.edu/research/terror/index.htm) and an empirical study of web use by terrorists based on data gained from individuals arrested in Israel. The dark web project analyzes terrorist activities on the Internet, mainly web sites and blogs. It uses tools to search the web for terrorist content, similar to classic search engines, as well as tools to analyze communication patterns in emails, forums and blogs in greater detail. Some of the questions Mr. Chen posed included, how active certain forums are, who the opinion leaders in forums and weblogs are, who cites who, and if it is possible to show relations between users in three dimensional graphs. The presentation and discussion demonstrated the tremendous technical difficulty involved, e.g. forums are closed and pop up under new names, some forums are password protected, language barriers, the sheer amount of data, and sometimes it is not clear whether a terrorist website is actually run by terrorist or by secret services as a “honeypot”. These technical problems are manageable to a large extent. The workshop however brought up a trickier problem in respect to technical analysis of terrorist activities on the Internet. Search engines for terrorist websites have to search for something i.e. they need certain words or phrases to search for. It is far from obvious what the pertinent keywords are. In addition, the skills of spider programmers typically don’t extend beyond mathematics or informatics and rarely include the subject area, linguistics or social science. In short, a broad range of scientific disciplines has to be involved in order to address the topic. Very often the data is highly sensitive, i.e. confidential, which complicates the problem even further. As the workshop showed it is extremely difficult to bring together the relevant people: They stem from different institutions (e.g., NATO, EU, member states), quite often there are rivalries, different cultures, socializations (academia/ non-academia, different branches in academia), and a different domestic culture and legal framework in dealing with terrorism are involved, etc.
The panel on social aspects focused in closer detail on psychological aspects related to terrorism. The main question consist of two parts: First, which impact does terrorism have on societies? How do societies callous in regard to terrorism? Second, which impact does the psyche of the individual terrorist have on the radicalization process? Obviously nobody is born as a terrorist but a radicalization process takes place. This makes it interesting to ask whether there are certain predispositions that make people more likely to become a terrorist. To design and implement preventive strategies, i.e. to stop the process of radicalization, we would have to know in more detail if there are typical stages along the process, if there are indicators visible to other people, if there is a kind of “point of no return” after which preventive measure are less effective, and so on. We know from peace research, that the amount of people which agrees to violent action is much higher than the amount of people which actually engages in violent action. It is still far from clear when and why a person crosses that line and actually carries out a violent action. Obviously it is very difficult to carry out empirical research on that topic. There is a very limited number of terrorists that were caught and that are willing to cooperate. As Andrew Silke suggests, it is possible to apply certain amount of insight gained from studies of delinquents to terrorists.
The second workshop built on the first, took place in autumn 2008 and developed the following main topics:
• Only few activities in the area of counter terrorism are proactive, most are reactive. This seems true in particular for the countries that have encountered a limited number of attacks, i.e. mainly Western Europe. The dilemma is obvious – as long as nothing happens it is difficult to justify action. The success of prevention is hard to measure. If something does happen, most people will quickly demand effective action. Therefore the workshop focused on developing an effective toolkit and strategy to prevent individual engagement in violent action.
• In relation to the last point and the first workshop, the follow-up sought to analyze in greater detail the psychological and sociological aspects of terrorism in order to gain deeper insight into the possibilities of stopping or even reversing radicalization. We addressed the aspect of the extent to which the web might become a primary resource for empirical study. As mentioned above it is very difficult to interview terrorists face to face. On the Internet, however, we can virtually find “tons” of material (text, videos, conversations, etc.) that can be used for empirical research. In turn, we posed the question in how far the web provides an authentic, accessible source of information regarding terrorist recruitment activities and provides insight into modes of operation and thought patterns.
• The first workshop showed various ways in which terrorists use the Internet and presented the tools we have to analyze their activities. We saw that there are technical ways to hinder these activities e.g. by shutting down websites, forums, etc., attacking the servers and so on. This is often very difficult as servers can be located anywhere in the world often posing legal constraints. Furthermore, it is often like “slaying a hydra”, i.e. after one site is shut down, it pops up in three different locations soon after. If for the reasons mentioned it is rather useless to engage in that cat and mouse game, it is worth analyzing more closely if we could use the same channel (Internet) to oppose the propaganda provided by extremists. So if we assume that recruitment and radicalization are, among others, two of the main goals terrorist groups pursue via the Internet, we want to research if, how, and to what extent it is possible to deradicalize people via the Internet or to show them better alternatives than violent action.
• Therefore the second workshop addressed in more detail various paths for web based deradicalization strategies. As seen in the previous workshop and by some research done in between the workshops we found that web based deradicalization, in particular for terrorist groups, has so far attracted very little attention. However, quite a substantial amount of research in relation to right wing extremism has been conducted. Particularly in Germany right wing extremists try to and unfortunately are often quite successfully attract a young audience using new media. This amount of detailed research was necessary in order to establish a reliable basis upon which to develop effective countermeasures, some of which involve the Internet.
Consequently a large portion of the workshop was dedicated to case studies in which the Internet was used to deradicalize or prevent radicalization in particular of young people. Most of the cases focused on right wing extremism, one of them on left wing extremism. It was discussed which techniques appear to be the most promising and how effectively these techniques can be applied to religiously inspired radical groups. In that context we were delighted to share the experiences made by the Muslim Federation in Spain that is running a successful web project to oppose radical tendencies in the Muslim community in Spain.
An underlying question, frequently addressed in the workshop, was in how far do the presented studies and cases, which mainly deal with rightwing extremism in Western Europe, provide a basis upon which researchers can extrapolate to extremist and terrorist groups in which – as we think – a perverted version of Islam is used to justify violent action. Also, if we think of deradicalization as a kind of education, there is reason to be skeptical whether “distance learning” via the web can be successful in comparison to face to face interaction. The following reasons provide ground for optimism:
• Various case studies of web based deradicalization measures have shown empirically testable positive results.
• The case study from the Muslim Federation of Spain has not been tested empirically but it has been recorded that the web portal gained widespread publicity and is used by a large amount of people.
• Evidence drawn from psychological studies shows, that radicalization processes are very similar no matter which end is pursued. Thus it seems plausible that countermeasures which have proven to be successful in particular fields should be universally applicable to different target groups.
Suggestions for Further Activities
During the workshops thorough discussions were held on the issues presented and various recommendations have been formulated in the meanwhile. These can be divided into the following categories. The sum of the categories should constitute a concerted strategy and policy, which was formulated with NATO in mind as stakeholder. Here is a list of the categories with a very succinct explanation of each of them:
• Intelligence: There is a need to constantly review terrorist organization websites (TOW). This is imperative as TOW are used for a number of purposes ranging from propaganda, recruiting and training to transfer of means, human resources and operational instructions. A continuous watch on TOW will provide insight on political trends, target population for propaganda and recruiting, and even targets for attack.
• Defense: NATO and other stakeholders are to develop plans and a means of defence against the information conveyed in the TOW, such as warning various related parties and providing counter information.
• Offense: Reaction to TOW should not be passive but needs to be far more proactive. NATO and others should figure out how an organization, or its member countries, can employ the Internet for its own purposes and initiatives. After all, the Internet is a bidirectional highway. It can deliver messages and information, refute an opponents’ information, and on the other side provide support for those of a moderate mind set. Terrorist organizations should be wary of the Internet rather than simply exploiting it for their own purposes.
• Human Resource Training: It was stressed in the workshop that there is a need for professionals to process the information extracted from the Internet. Internet research does not replace the field agent but can support him/her very well. It is a great challenge to train individuals to be able to work successfully with information acquired from the Internet.
• Understanding Radicalization Processes: One of the major questions is how the process of radicalization of human beings work. People are not born terrorists, so it is essential to learn how it all begins and whether there is a way of reversing the process. All the experts in the workshop agreed that profiling is not enough to pre-expose potential terrorists; the variance in profiles is too high. Hence, understanding radicalization process and how it is encouraged by TOW is very important.
• Deradicalization Options: The Internet can be used to counter radicalization threats and to relay information to halt or reverse such trends. For instance, the provision of information and arguments to moderate circles can be of great help.
• Education: A comprehensive education program targeting children, women (mothers) and other adults (those of moderate religious conviction, teachers, clergy personnel, and the like) should be developed and implemented that is tailored to suit the various types of audience and different countries.
• Legal Issues: The entire counter-TOW strategy needs to be supported with legal advice and instruments. There are many open legal questions, and as long as we wish to operate within the framework of a lawful democracy, those questions need to be answered. For example: should a governmental agent be allowed to interact with terrorist circles in chat rooms? What is the border between acquiring information and breaching privacy?
• Culture: It was presented as an important driving force to understand motives and attitudes and deserves consideration in planning countermeasures.
Chapters and Articles in the Book
The articles are clustered around six thematic fields:
• Overview on the use of the Internet by terrorist and extremist organisations
• Internet as a tool for radicalization and deradicalization processes
• Women and children as target groups, gender aspects
• Geographical case studies
• Technical innovations for web analysis
• Dialogical countermeasures
The first cluster gives an overview on the use of the Internet by extremist and terrorist organisations and underlines the rapidly growing importance of the subject of the book.
Eli Hacohen gives a brief up to date overview of digital hate that can be found on the Internet and its double face – a source for high quality information and freedom of speech that at the same time can be abused for propaganda and spreading of hatred. Furthermore he discusses the various problems that are posed by this highly sophisticated method of communication.
Mark Weitzmann provides a comprehensive overview of how the usage of the Internet as a channel for propaganda developed. He focuses mainly on antisemitism as well as terrorism and provides a wide range of empirical examples.
Radicalization and Deradicalization Processes
The six articles of this cluster present the core hypothesis of the book: Internet can shape both radicalization and deradicalization processes and thus should be used as an interactive tool by authorities to start counterinformation and dialogue processes in the near future. What these new innovations should and will look like was a topic of the independent cluster “dialogical countermeasures” (s.b.).
Andrew Silke analyses the psychological factors underlying and related to radicalization processes drawing on various case studies and empirical evidence. He argues that public and decision makers’ interest focused too long on what terrorists might do using the web (e.g. attacking critical infrastructure) rather than studying how terrorists really use the Internet. Consequently he shows the ways terrorists use the Internet for gaining active but equally important passive supporters for their cause. Within the psychological factors relevant for propaganda he points out the role of deindividuation, the imagined community and mortality salience.
Mariana Stan also focuses on the role that the Internet and audio-visual mass media play. She focuses on young Muslim audience in Europe and in particular the Balkan region. Obviously this addresses the issue of home grown terrorism as most of these young people are second or third generation descendants. She points out various general favorable circumstances that facilitate radicalization among this audience and highlights factors that apply in particular to the Balkan region.
Daniela Sibianu and Elena Agheana address the relation between Islamism and Globalization. They pose questions revolving around the underlying causes and the rhetoric used to reject Globalization by Islamists and use the knowledge gained to suggest appropriate counter strategies. Their research focuses on the somewhat ironic fact that while denying Globalisation Islamists strongly benefit in particular from the rapid means of communication for spreading propaganda that have only become available through that very proces.
Andrei Vladescu raises the hot question how thin the border between moderate and radical Islamism actually is by analyzing four Islamic movements showing differences and commonalities in discourses and justifications of violent action. He concludes that we should be very careful in identifying the moderates, with whom we want to begin a professional dialogue, as they might not be as moderate as they claim to be.
Sven Eiffler analyses the radicalization of young German but also European Muslim inhabitants from a German perspective. In respect to that target group we can see how the providers of propaganda actually adapted to this new audience that does not speak Arabic and quite often not even English. Eiffler points out the various stylistic methods and narratives used for attracting young Muslims in Europe. Finally Eiffler points out the counter strategy pursued by the German Joint Internet Centre, to act as a kind of think-tank to bring together the wide range of specialists needed to address this issue.
Daniela Sibianu addresses the discourse of justifying violent action by Muslim extremists in detail. Citing prominent examples such as the situation of prisoners in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, the Muhammad cartoons or the speech by Pope Benedict XVI Sibianu shows the following discourse established by fundamentalists that argue that they are just defending Muslims against attacks of the West. She unravels the underlying discourse structures and the scheme used for elaborating propagandistic materials.
Women and Children as Target Groups
The third cluster focusses on the special target group of women and children, and proves the growing necessity to do so.
Mariana Stan and Andrei Vladescu analyze how women and children became involved in terroristic activities from about 2000 onwards. They show the various steps necessary to justify the involvement of women in violent action, namely a series of fatwas. They continue to show the various advantages the new strategy to (ab-)use women and children for terroristic attacks had. They analyze the discursive figures used, as well as the impact of various propaganda channels, in particular the Internet, on women and children. Given the enormous success of radical and terroristic groups to target women and children in their homelands, Stan and Vladescu raise the concern that they might gain even higher support among Muslim communities in the West.
Erdogan Celebi analyses how women are used by the PKK in particular in Turkey for carrying out terroristic attacks. Celebi points out the various incentives for women to engage in terroristic activities. As Celebi shows this participation has also to be understood from an organizational perspective, not only as an individual cost-benefit calculation. Celebi points out similar advantages to abuse women for terrorist activities as shown by Stan and Vladescu. However, he stresses – if we assume that terrorism is to a large extent a signaling strategy – that the message sent by female terrorists is much stronger compared to male terrorists.
Geographical Case Studies
The four geographical case studies focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Jonathan Halevi), Iran (Shai Raz), Russia (Lyubov Fadeeva) and Germany (Roman Peperhove).
In analyzing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as reflected through the Internet, Jonathan Halevi points out how the Internet is a very powerful tool in asymmetrical conflicts. Although extremists operating from Palestine have to face severe constraints, also in respect to Internet facilities, they operate a highly successful propaganda machine against Israel. Halevi shows the various techniques used by Palestinian extremists to spread propaganda and how this poses a threat to the security of Israel. Giving various examples, he concludes that Israeli government generally does a bad job at maintaining the image of Israel.
Shai Raz paints a multifaceted picture of the Iranian cyberspace. In particular the various weblogs show that Iranian society is much less monolithic than is often assumed. The government has very limited possibilities to control this new way of communication that is so popular among young people in Iran (keeping in mind that the median age is below 30). While the regime was not successful in controlling the Internet usage, it started to use it for its own propaganda purposes. Raz goes on to analyze the Iranian blogosphere in more detail before presenting cases of antisemitic and anti-Israeli propaganda to be found on Iranian Internet resources.
Lyubov Fadeeva analyzes political Internet resources in Russia that target a young audience. She provides an overview of the types of political Internet resources (from left wing to right wing) and the content found on them. She concludes that in particular Pro-Kremlin and the Radical parties run sophisticated and attractive websites whereas moderate positions (e.g. the liberal party) have much less attractive sites. Fadeeva points out the high amount of radical organizations in Russia and the significant violence they spread (e.g. 68 deaths in the first eight months of 2008). Radical organizations heavily use the Internet for their purposes while the government faces severe difficulties to counter this new challenge.
Roman Peperhove analyzes Islamist websites written in German and hosted in Germany at the end of 2008. He looks only at sites open to the public. Peperhove outlines the current situation for German Internet users and tendencies of radicalization on the Internet in regard to German Islamist content. His research provides thought-provoking new impulses concerning possible deradicalization measures. In conclusion, future tendencies are discussed and ideas for new strategies to counter extremist content on the net are proposed.
Technical Innovations for Web Analysis
In an independent cluster a number of technological innovations were presented to underline the growth of new technological threats and new tools for empirical research and understanding.
Gevorg Margarov and Siranush Chopuryan draw our attention to the value of secret messages in terrorism. On the one hand the Internet provides a public space that can be used for propaganda, on the other hand there are messages that terrorists surely do not want to be public e.g. coordination of activities. Encryption as used e.g. for emails or secure payment does not hide data but prevents people from accessing the content. Margarov addresses these techniques, called Steganography, wich hide data rather than encrypt it. It is for instance possible to hide a message in a picture and send it via mail without arousing suspicion. Margarov discusses the underlying principle and various pieces of software that use this method before addressing the counter methods, called steganalysis. A question is, however, whether terrorist organisations have used steganographic methods at all so far. At the end of the article, Margarov and Chopuryan turn the tables and presents cryptosystems for official bodies to make sure that relevant information stays secret.
Marina Shorer-Zeltser and Galit Ben-Israel unraveled four ways, in which religious websites can serve as a tool for terror. They raise the question how it is possible to analyze the sheer amount of website in that respect. Traditional content analysis, which could fulfill this purpose, is usually used to analyze the sender of a message. However, Shorer-Zeltser and Ben-Israel are more interested in using it to examine the potential effects of a website’s content on the visitor. To reach this goal, they conduct research in programming algorithms based on Zipf’s theory that would allow for automated machine analysis of websites to search for content that may prompt visitors to support or engage in radical action.
The last cluster shows new innovative dialogical countermeasures by example of two case studies. Thus, the last chapter of the book proves that it is possible to come up with innovative new forms for dialogical deradicalization, which make use of the Internet.
Aaron Weisburd begins by pointing out the various ways terrorists use the Internet. By analyzing empirical data, Weisburd shows that in many cases we can not define stark rules that allow for generalization: Which course of action should be taken when after analysis of an extensively visited extremist forum, it is revealed that the average response to postings is less than 0.1%? Consequently Weisburd argues that governments have to reach an agreement what the nature of the online threat is in order to develop the appropriate countermeasures.
Thomas Grumke presents a rather unusual approach to counter extremist tendencies among young people in Germany – a comic. The project “Andi” was launched in 2004 focusing on the issue of right wing extremism targeting young people between 14-17 years of age. In 2007 a second volume was produced, dealing with Islamism. The comic was published in print as well as online. However, the efforts to provide a high quality online platform were restricted due to a compromising lack of resources.
This book can only be a beginning for the development of dialogical countermeasures. Much work has to be done in order to make use of the potential of the Internet for dialogue, dispersion of information and sending a political message which can approach, engage and change extremist and terrorist target audiences.
Most of the antisemitic and extremist threats we face today are asymmetrical – a small group with often very little resources challenges state(s) and societies. No open war is declared, combatants do not meet in the field. A large portion of the war has been transferred to the virtual world – the internet is used to spread propaganda, coordinate, fundraise, gather intelligence, etc. or in some cases as an offensive weapon to launch attacks on critical infrastructure modern countries heavily depend upon. In this short introduction I will briefly address the underlying (technical) properties of the internet that make it so use- and powerful for extrem groups in asymmetrical conflicts. This shall also point out the immense challenges states are confronted with in the face of the internet as a decentralised, highly available and cheap operational mean. How can states extend their influence beyond their national borders in order to effectively meet these challenges and consequently how does national and international legislation have to be changed to allow for effective countermeasure while maintaining the ability to ensure fundamental civic rights?
The Internet has become the prime tool for extremist propaganda. This paper explores the history of extremism online as well as examining some of the methods and techniques used by extremists. It ranges from the earliest use by neo-Nazis to the surge in terrorist websites since 9/11, and also reflects on the increasing technical sophistication of extremists in what is currently called Internet 2.0. Finally, some suggestions are offered in how civil society can begin to take steps in countering this use without surrendering basic civil liberties.
There is growing awareness and concern over the potential of the internet to radicalize people towards violent extremism and terrorism. This paper provides a balanced assessment of the psychological processes through which the internet can have an impact in this regard. Particular attention is focused on identity issues, the imagined community, mortality salience effects and deindividuation. These are explored in terms of how their potential to generate support and ultimately radicalize individuals into joining a campaign of violence.
The development of the Islamist-rooted home-grown terrorism in Europe requires an approach to that phenomenon in terms of favourable social and ideological factors. To understand the radicalisation process of young Muslims, descendants of second and/or third-generation immigrants and converts, we consider a series of phases and tools that can be applied to certain individuals identified in recruitment ground environments. From this perspective, we shall analyse the way the Internet and audio-visual mass media are used to indoctrinate not only Muslims in the Islamic states, but especially targets in the European countries, with a focus on the Balkan region.
Globalization is the contemporary phenomenon with the highest impact on the Muslim world, in general, and on its radical element, in particular. While analyzing the premises of the negative perception of globalization by Islamist extremists, the purpose of the essay is to show how the benefits of this phenomenon are paradoxically exploited by them, especially since globalization contributes to promoting radical Islam, by facilitating rapid access to technology and information. The analysis of attitudes and actions of Islamist extremists towards globalization is a key element in the development of a strategy aimed at countering Islamic violence, which should become a top priority for the European countries in their joint efforts of cooperation on security issues.
Seeking to gain and preserve their doctrinaire supremacy, the fundamentalist groups strive to dissimulate their ideology by building convenient discoursive realities that diminish Islam phobic reflexes and allow speculating on the breaches within the non-Muslim cultural system. We intend to prove that the border between moderate and radical Islamism is extremely thin. In developing a cooperation strategy with Muslim moderates, a thorough analysis of their discourse and actions should be made, by referring to the way they relate to the essence of the Islamist ideology (restoring the Caliphate and imposing the Sharia as a legal system) besides the declarative rejection of violence. This analysis becomes even more significant as the simple declarative rejection of violence might be misleading and the alleged “intermediary ideology” (as “wassatiyya” introduces itself) might stand for the ideal camouflage of radical Islamists.
It seems to be paradox that the real restriction of operational abilities of Al Qaeda (AQ) and its affiliated Islamist terrorist organisations, caused by the pressure exerted by the security authorities worldwide in general and NATO forces in particular, is accompanied by a virtual extension of both the personnel potential and the sphere of action. Searching for the causes, we notice the propagandistic exaggeration of the organisation’s objectives and actions, which however, has to be considered a crucial point for extending the circles of adherents and sympathisers and thus its sphere of activity. No matter to what extent AQ may actually have been involved in the operational perpetration of attacks nowadays – its video messages, in particular those given by its protagonists like Usama Bin Ladin, Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the Al Qaeda leader in Iraq, who was killed in the summer of 2007 show how the organisation sees itself, namely as an inspiring force aiming at the community of all Muslims. Via the Internet, Arab television channels, but also through the sale of DVD’s and CD’s, masses of these messages reach interested people all over the world. Any effort to develop a counterstrategy is bound to fail if we do not understand what actual attraction these video messages hold for young and mostly male Muslims. The global impact of this propaganda and therefore its challenges for the security community are caused by a set of stylistic devices, metaphors and symbols from which the addressees in the Middle East and the West – due to the recipients’ different horizons of experience – will in different ways establish semantic links all of which will eventually strengthen, if not even generate their wish to get involved in the violent Jihad, though. The Joint Internet Center (Gemeinsames Internet Zentrum GIZ), which brings together experts of different German security authorities, faces this challenge. Within the short period of its existence it has proved already that any strategy meant to counter Islamist terrorism and the radicalizing effects of Islamist propaganda in particular requires an interdisciplinary examination approach which combines scientific and empirical expertise. Based on this experience all means which help to understand the radicalizing effects of jihad propaganda and strengthen the mutual exchange of ideas and knowledge as well as the monitoring capacities of all relevant authorities are without doubt a good investment in the security architecture of the West.
The comparative assessment of public statements released by certain Islamist groups/leaders highlights the continuous process of tailoring the response to topics seen as an offence to Muslims as a whole, in order to boost the impact of allegations linked to the thesis of their oppression by the West and to justify terrorist actions. As far as propaganda is concerned, one can notice the change in the discoursive characteristics of the texts and the dissemination means depending on the chosen theme, intended objectives and aimed targets. Thus, Jihad ideologists try to dissimulate the fact that arguing the legitimacy of the Islamist movement radicalization is related to double standards and reject any inter-confessional dialogue meant to contribute to ending the conflict between Islam and the Western society.
Since 2002, the terrorist phenomenon dynamics has become increasingly linked to the use of the communication component in order to expand the recruitment pool, by luring women and children. This paper intends to review the context, the reasons and the promoters of change, the media tools and propaganda techniques employed, while assessing their impact.
The pressures on terrorist organizations from security agencies force them to use new methods to circumvent measures taken against them in order to gain strategic advantages. The use of new technologies such as the Internet and the recruitment of women for use in unorthodox plots like suicide terrorism are typical innovations of terrorist organizations. In this paper, the author argues that gaining strategic advantage is not the only reason that terrorist organizations recruit women into their ranks. They use woman to amplify their violent messages to the public by placing woman in the front lines as a marketing strategy. The PKK/KONGRA-GEL, seeing the benefits of involving women in its terror campaign, has created its own female terrorist organization to place women in the center of their rhetoric and uses Internet to communicate this rhetoric with its target audience.
This study investigates attitudes about Israeli and Palestinian public relations policies as it is reflected in the Internet arena. It shows that in the information war, Israel lags far behind the Palestinians and suggests that the key to changing the situation is first of all recognizing the Internet’s importance and in providing suitable resources for research and the construction of online data bases which will present Israel’s official position. Ignoring the Internet means giving others a free hand to write their own versions of history.
Iranian cyberspace and specially the phenomenon of Iranian weblogs reflects the diverse nature of Iranian nation, society and politics. The rapid development of the Internet in Iran caught the regime largely off gourd but in response it implemented dualistic approach: severe restriction measures side by side with efforts to harness this new media to its advantage. While Iranian cyberspace views as a whole reflect the diversity of the global web, the use of the Internet by the Iranian regime is largely focusing with supporting its radical policies, which turns Iran into a “radicalism sponsoring state”.
This paper is devoted to the ways and methods of political communication and political mobilization which are used in Runet. The author characterizes the Russian political Internet resources which are targeting the youth audience: their content and ideology, their influence on the political mind of youth.
This article gives a brief up-to-date snapshot of the German Islamist scene and contents directed at German Internet users in the end of the year 2008. All mentioned sites and contents are open to the public on the Internet. In 2008, we assessed new alarming developments in this field. The article begins by reporting about radical German Internet sources and the content in German on international multilingual websites. Afterwards the focus is narrowed to the problems with servers that host radical sites. Altogether, the article outlines the current situation for German Internet users and tendencies of radicalisation on the Internet within German Islamist material and it gives a thought-provoking impulse about possible de-radicalisation measures. In conclusion, future tendencies are discussed and ideas for new strategies to counter extremist contents on the net are proposed. The article is not aimed at analysing the different main goals of terrorists on the Internet which can be described in brief as propaganda, legitimization, threatening and frightening of the enemy, recruiting and financing purposes.
This article is devoted to problems of data hiding on the Internet by means of steganography and detection of steganographic content by means of steganalysis. Rumors in mass media about terrorists using steganography are revealed. The basic idea of steganography, its history and application on the Internet is considered. Classification and examples of available software are outlined. Main principles of steganalysis and detection of steganographic content are discussed.
The public key cryptosystem based on finite automata has been represented in this article, which can be used to support of multilateral antiterrorist activity. The public key cryptosystem based on finite automata possesses high stability against information warfare, which allows protecting the secret information more effectively on the Internet from eavesdroppers. Such cryptosystem also possess high level of performance, which is defined by use fast logic operation at data encryption and decryption.
The presented paper is a part of a broader research on patterns of political involvement of religious Internet communities. The research proposes that special textual devices, like: keywords, semiotic phrases, icons, etc, are activating the first trigger that draws the attention of the potential volunteers to take an activate act in terror groups.
This paper examines jihadist use of the Internet in terms of both the content of what jihadists say and view online, and the context within which jihadi online activity occurs. Limits on the value of analyzing the content of jihadi discussions are noted, and emphasis is placed on locating online supporters of the global jihad in the real world, where opportunities and associations will determine who succeeds in becoming involved in terrorism and who does not.