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Reader's Digest – 24 July 2020

Our weekly review of articles on terrorist and violent extremist use of the internet, counterterrorism, digital rights, and tech policy.

Top stories

  • In our latest webinar we spoke about how tech platforms can introduce and improve accountability mechanisms, with guest speakers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Microsoft, Facebook, and Discord. Read a summary of the webinar here.
  • UN CTED released its new analytical brief on the prosecution of IS associated women. The brief emphasises Member States’ obligation to bring terrorists to justice, and identifies an “urgent need” to develop gender-sensitive criminal justice responses.
  • The Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN) is calling for the Australian Government to ban far-right violent extremist groups. In reporting on this call, SBS News references Tech Against Terrorism’s concerns with the lack of clarity around far-right violent extremist groups, and the difficulties this presents for tech platforms. Tech Against Terrorism encourages States to use legal powers to promote rule of law through comprehensive designation in order to facilitate tech companies’ adjudication of violent extremist content on their platforms.
  • On 23 July, the GIFCT held its 2020 Summit, this year in virtual format. This was the fourth GIFCT summit since the initial launch of the forum in 2017, which Tech Against Terrorism organised, but the first since the appointment of Nicholas J. Rasmussen as the GIFCT’s first Executive Director.
  • In a move to prevent “offline harm”, Twitter is banning QAnon related accounts that violate its policies and is no longer recommending QAnon content.

Tech policy 

  • Let’s close the gap and finally pass a federal data privacy law: Jerry Jones, of LiveRamp, argues for a data privacy law to be passed at the federal level in the US. Basing his argument on studies highlighting the US public’s belief in a need for greater transparency and control around data collection and data use, and on the increased legislative activity in multiple US states around data regulation, Jones argues that the US has “never been in a better position to pass a federal data privacy law that can rebalance the system and set standards that rebuild trust with the people providing the data.” In establishing rules for data collection and utilisation, such regulation would create consistency across the US and balance the needs of the individuals with those of the industry and society at large. In order to gather bi-partisan support, Jones builds up his argument around three assertions: “one size does not fit all”, tech company size should be taken into account and requirements should be set accordingly; an empowered regulatory authority, arguing that the existing Federal Trade Commission should be given the authority and capability to oversee the enforcement of the federal regulation; and a “properly crafted private right-to-action” to ensure that individuals can seek redress if their data rights are violated. (Jones, TechCrunch, 23.07.2020)

Far-right violent extremism and terrorism

  • Plongée dans la haine en ligne avec « Team patriote », groupe privé de militants nationalistes: In this article, Samuel Laurent details Le Monde’s two month long infiltration of a private far-right extremist Telegram group. Made up of 150 members, it regroups a broad range of nationalists activists and discussion usually centers around an upcoming racial war, immigration in France, Islam, as well as around guns and weapons procurement. In particular, Laurent underlines the multiple calls for violence and armed insurrections regularly posted on the group. Launched in June, the group is a window into the state of far-right extremism and violent extremism in France, as Laurent underlines how it is made up of individuals of all ages and professions, including law enforcement representatives and a few known public figures. The article also stresses how the group is seen by its members as a place where, unlike on other social media platforms, they can express ideas without risking any form of moderation. Despite febrile online activity, Laurent also notes that the group has thus far failed to translate their online activity into offline action. (Laurent, Le Monde, 21.07.2020, Article in French)

Islamist terrorism

  • Al-Qaeda in Yemen: Preparing to strike: Antonino Occhiuto provides an overview of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) activities in Yemen. Occhiuto dwells on the challenges met by the group in facing regional and international counterterrorism efforts, as well as on Yemen’s strategic importance for the group – mainly due to the country’s physical geography allowing for guerrilla warfare and close proximity to Saudi Arabia. Occhiuto notes AQAP’s structural resilience in Yemen and how, in contrast to the Islamic State, AQAP has built its local strength by relying mostly on community engagement rather than on military tactics. In conclusion, Occhiuto underlines the opportunities for development that the situation in Yemen provides AQAP with, and the risks such development would pose to security on a global scale. (Occhiuto, European Eye on Radicalization, 20.07.2020)
  • Rising in the East: A regional overview of the Islamic State’s operations in Southeast Asia: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point released the first report of its four-part series on the Islamic State in Southeast Asia. Authored by Amira Jadoon, Nakissa Jahanbani, and Charmaine Willis, the first instalment in this series dwells on the group’s presence in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines since 2014, and underlines the increased lethality of IS in the region in 2019. An increased lethality that the report identifies to be linked to attacks committed by affiliated or inspired individuals, thus emphasising the risk posed by “independent plotters and radicalised individuals who present a pool of potential recruits for existing networks of militants in the region.“ (Jadon, Jahanban, and Willis, CTC at West Point, 20.07.2020)

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