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Ambitious to Think That Online Terrorism Can Be Defeated Completely – UN Advisor

© REUTERS / Muhammad HamedIraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) gather during an operation to clear the al-Zirai district of Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, January 18, 2017
Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) gather during an operation to clear the al-Zirai district of Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, January 18, 2017 - Sputnik International
Terror-related manuals are easily available on search engine Google, according to The Independent. The police and experts are calling for action to ensure that al-Qaeda and Daesh materials cannot easily be found online. Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with Dr. Hamed El Said, advisor to the UN Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force.

The Independent informed Google that manuals on how to make home-made explosives can be easily found on their search engines, but even 48 hours after the alert by the publication the manuals were still available online.

Commenting on the issue Dr. Hamed El Said told Sputnik: 

This is not really new material it has been there for a while. It was developed obviously by terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and even Daesh, which have developed such material. It is remaining there online and easily accessed. The main difference between now and centuries ago is obviously the level of technology that we have at our disposal today, which is unprecedented really and which really facilitates access of such materials, and also it is widespread. Obviously you cannot really blame the authorities because that’s exactly what the terrorists aim to do. They want to spread such material and this is one of the ways how they use to recruit individuals and spread their radical message to outreach and recruit as many individuals as they can over this enormous and powerful technology. 

Who to blame with regard to regulating that? This is something that we haven’t been able to regulate for a very long time. Who exactly to regulate? There is no doubt that the internet has become a very important instrument in the hands of terrorist organizations from al-Qaeda going to Daesh. We have seen how they have developed an order to spread its message and to recruit as well. So there is no question that the internet has become an extremely important instrument used by terrorists in order to spread their message, recruit and even spread material as you rightly said teaching their followers around the world. I think it is very ambitious to think that we can defeat online terrorism completely and despite the efforts to regulate Internet which remains the major problem by the way in many poor countries which lack the resources, the technical capabilities to do so as well. 

I would also argue that such measures alone are not really enough. This is continuing to look like a symptom ignoring the disease itself. A better approach would be to accompany such measures with trying to understand why exactly such individuals do what they do. At the same time try to deal with the disease itself rather than just only looking at the symptoms unfortunately as many of us have been doing for a long time.

Would you imagine that internet can be used to fight the problem? Maybe there needs to be another approach which would be circulating anti-terrorism propaganda through the internet, could that be useful?

Many countries have actually done that. There are several countries which have developed such websites in order to counter the radical ideology of many of those organizations in order to counter every single narrative. Terrorist organizations have actually provided and continue to provide. So this is something that is already happening. Counter narrative on its own again will not solve the problem unless we really understand the nature of this phenomenon and start looking at the disease rather than the symptoms only. It would be very difficult for us to undermine the narrative of the terrorist and also to defeat terrorism if that’s exactly what they want to do.

Has this anti-terrorism propaganda by the countries that you mention been done successfully? 

There has been fight, successful or unsuccessful — it is too early to evaluate the effectiveness of such material, but given the fact that terrorism continues to be a major threat it would be very difficult to argue that we have been successful in countering the narrative of the terrorist. Really things on the ground for many individuals around the world are very different and that is really what matters most. This is exactly what I mean by that we need to look for the disease, we need to understand why these individuals are doing what they are doing and find solutions to undermine [it] rather than continuing to look at the symptoms only.

Dr. Hamed El Said is the chair and professor of international business and political economy at the Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, an advisor to the United Nations Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force and to the Arab Thought Forum.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the analyst and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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