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Dark web

The use of the internet by the IS for recruitment and propaganda is a new challenge of our time.

By: Express News Service |
March 12, 2015 12:13:14 am

Given the spate of ejections and bans on mainstream social media like Facebook and Twitter, the so-called Islamic State’s (IS’s) supporters have launched an alternative, It will presumably better facilitate their online recruitment and propaganda activities. But the site went offline again a day later and its linked Twitter account was shut down. This comes as several governments have called upon technology giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google to blunt the IS’s internet capabilities by suspending the social media accounts of sympathisers and members, in response to reports that the IS has had some success in radicalising individuals in countries like the US, UK and Australia.

Yet, while the IS’s sophisticated use of the internet certainly poses a challenge to counter-terrorism strategy, bans and censorship could serve to only drive its message into the dark corners of the Web, where it is much less likely to be countered. Some experts have also pointed out that even if the IS could be prevented from utilising the internet to radicalise people, shutting it down would mean a loss of a potentially valuable source of intelligence. It doesn’t help that efforts to counter militant narratives online have been less than successful.

Last year, the US state department launched an initiative to contest cyber-radicalisation efforts by employing sarcasm, but it appears to be losing this virtual war. This conundrum — of whether to restrict internet freedoms and make private companies like Twitter and Facebook the arbiters of what or who to censor and ban — is likely to  grow and spread across contexts. The IS is, after all, using the same tools as protesters in Egypt or Iran, the very instruments that supposedly indicated the inherently democratic character of the internet. The IS’s online proficiency underlines, however, that the Web, like Janus, has two faces.

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