Got to hand it to the mainstream media — the illustration for this story about authorities in Britain trying to infiltrate and counter jihadist websites shows that their high standards for accuracy have not changed. And as for those authorities, if they’re as careful and discerning as The Independent, British citizens can be confident that they’ll be safe from counter-jihadists and that many more young Muslims like Michael Adebolajo will be getting their marching orders on the Internet and then roaming the streets.
“Terror in Woolwich: Internet is the vital frontline in war against extremism,” by Paul Cahalan and Jonathan Owen for The Independent, May 26 (thanks to Rizwan):
The major battle in the war against extremism is being fought over the internet by elite teams stationed behind keyboards and engaged in winning the hearts and minds of would-be terrorists.
It is a sign of the increasing understanding that small-scale, unsophisticated attacks such as the one in Woolwich are a growing threat: the Government, police and other agencies are involved in a propaganda war to counter extremism.
An Independent on Sunday investigation has revealed that more than 2,000 websites promoting terrorism have been taken offline since 2010 by the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism internet referral unit. Experts are now bombarding extremist websites to create “counter-narrative” messages from survivors of terrorism. Former radicals also infiltrate forums to spread doubt and challenge the extremist rhetoric.
Last night, Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, Europe’s crime intelligence agency, described the threat as a “rising concern”, with an estimated 8,000 websites “serving terrorists and their supporters”.
The Home Office, which has a unit that specialises in detecting patterns among social media, is focusing on countering extremist rhetoric online before any would-be attacker is radicalised.
Experts say a group of jihadist internet forums is at the heart of a virtual army of extremists. An estimated 25,000 people from more than 100 countries belong to web forums, research has shown. “Jihadist cyberspace has become a breeding ground for new individual jihadists and jihadist networks,” said a 2012 report by the Dutch security service AIVD.
Increased internet use in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen has resulted in an influx of extremists keen to spread their ideology, it says. A number of plots against Western targets have had a “prominent virtual component” and online propaganda is inspiring a growing number of people to take violent action, warns Dutch intelligence.
There are “rising concerns” about the way terrorists are using the internet, warned Rob Wainwright, director of Europol.
“What we have noticed in the last few years is more and more activists in Europe using the internet,” he said. “We are pretty convinced that this form of incitement and radicalisation online is a major element in contributing to terrorist planning and activity.”
Jeff Bardin, chief intelligence officer for the security consultancy Treadstone 71, said jihadist websites use the internet to recruit, indoctrinate and contribute to radicalisation, with an explosion of sites on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pastebin. Internet relay chat is popular for immediate communication of messages.
The internet is “the perfect communications platform for the enemies of Western societies”, he says. “The number of sites has grown to tens of thousands with new sites, pages, accounts and personae popping up hourly.”
Those responsible for extremist websites are increasingly aware that they are being monitored by security services and are turning to social media, says Robin Simcox, an analyst on terrorism at the think-tank the Henry Jackson Society. The changing climate would make crude attacks akin to the one in Woolwich likely to increase as organisations become more desperate….