Jihadi Social Net: Scholar Sheds Light on 'Level of Radicalization on Facebook'

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Facebook allowed Daesh extremists to find one another through the network's suggested friends feature. According to reports citing a study, Facebook helped thousands of terrorists around the globe form new larger networks and recruit new members.

Sputnik discussed this with Dr. Jan Ali, a senior lecturer on Islam and modernity in the school of humanities and communication arts, and a community and research analyst in the religion and society research center at the University of Western Sydney.

Sputnik: Were you surprised when you learned about this news?

Dr. Jan Ali: Not really because we have received some feedback from colleagues who have been involved in researching radicalization and terrorism, these issues have been discussed and there is a level of concern about social media being used by terrorist organizations to recruit people now.

Sputnik: How disturbing is this study in your view? And how serious is the issue of online radicalization?

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Dr. Jan Ali: According to the experts in the area, including the intelligence officers, there is a level of radicalization taking place in social media, Facebook, for instance, and through other means, not much empirical research is there, and academics and sociologists would be more keen of having empirical evidence of this happening rather than simply referring to anecdotes regarding radicalization, but definitely there is a level of radicalization taking place through different platforms in the context of social media.

Sputnik: Researchers have noted that Facebook was taking a low-level effort approach to finding and eliminating the offending accounts, why do you think that is?

Dr. Jan Ali: I'm not really sure why this is the case, again, the data is not there, not much empirical research is done, but I think also Facebook or social media more generally, when the technicians, the engineers that developed such a platform, such a means of communication, I'm not really sure how much were they in communication with other stakeholders, with other experts in different fields who could have advised that some kind of mechanism needs to be developed within the communication system, so that this kind of things can be managed, and, if detected, can be eliminated.

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So for example, whoever designed Facebook, the technicians involved, did they really think of terrorists using such a platform, I'm not really sure if they did, and also the level of communication and interaction with other experts in the field, for example, those who actually study terrorism, radicalization, their forecast about where this is going, what is expected in the future from such terrorist organizations.

Sputnik: Whose responsibility is it to confront terrorism online, is it the law-enforcement officers or is Facebook's?

Dr. Jan Ali: Terrorists don't discriminate against any particular organization or particular individuals. Terrorist also target Muslims themselves although they fight in the name of Islam, so I think it's everyone's responsibility, even the responsibility of individuals, and I think if everyone takes responsibility in being vigilant, have the resources to communicate any act of terror or suspect any act of terror taking place or being organized and will report back to the authorities, will be a responsibility well carried out.

Sputnik: What measures need to be taken by social media platforms and lawmakers to counter it?

Dr. Jan Ali: I think lawmakers have taken some steps to counter it. I know for sure in Australia that Australia has got one of the largest pieces of legislation regarding countering violent extremism. As for social media platforms, yes, I think they need to take measures to manage or counter radicalization and violent extremism that organizations such as ISIS are trying to use to recruit people.

The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.



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