This paper presents the results of a conference focused on identifying good practices in using the Internet to undermine the appeal of terrorism, to expose its lack of legitimacy and its negative impact, and to undermine the credibility of its messengers.
The conference was held by the United Nations Counterterrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), Working Group on Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes Riyadh, on 24 - 26 January 2011.
The Internet is a key way for violent extremists to encourage others to adopt their views. In their messaging to potential supporters and vulnerable audiences, extremists use simplistic analysis and offer violent solutions to problems that span a range of complex social, economic and political issues at both a local and global level.
Finding effective ways to counter such messages was at the heart of discussions at the Riyadh Conference on the “Use of the Internet to Counter the Appeal of Extremist Violence.” Co-hosted by the United Nations Counterterrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) and the Naif Arab University for Security Sciences in Riyadh in partnership with the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation, and supported by the Governments of Germany and Saudi Arabia, the Riyadh conference followed two previous meetings of the CTITF Internet Working Group, one on legal aspects of the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes, and the other on technical aspects. The conference brought together around 150 policy-makers, experts and practitioners from the public sector, international organisations, industry, academia and the media. Several States participated at ministerial or ambassadorial level. The choice of Saudi Arabia as a venue reflected its considerable effort to identify effective counter-terrorism measures, including in combating terrorist use of the Internet and in constructing and delivering effective counter-narratives.
The conference focused on identifying good practices in using the Internet to undermine the appeal of terrorism, to expose its lack of legitimacy and its negative impact, and to undermine the credibility of its messengers. Key themes included the importance of identifying the target audience, crafting effective messages, identifying credible messengers, and using appropriate media to reach vulnerable communities. The Conference agreed that Governments might not always be best placed to lead this work and needed the cooperation of civil society, the private sector, academia, the media and victims of terrorism. Given the global nature of terrorist narratives and the need to counter them in the same space, there was a special role for the United Nations in facilitating discussion and action.
This report includes a list of possible follow-up projects, further recommendations, and a summary of the discussion.