Washington, D.C. - A new report released by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Homeland Security Project urges the administration to publish its Internet strategy to prevent terrorism and aims to broaden the understanding of the role the Internet plays in radicalizing homegrown and domestic terrorists. Under the leadership and direction of former 9/11 Commission Chairs Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, co-chairs of BPC’s Homeland Security Project, the report was authored by Peter Neumann. The report, entitled, Countering Online Radicalization in America, is based on a series of interviews with a wide range of current and former senior U.S. counterterrorism officials and other stakeholders.
“Future terrorist attacks against the United States and its interests will continue to involve individuals who have been radicalized – at least in part – on the Internet,” said Governor Kean at the report release. “Our report is intended to educate policymakers and the public concerning how the Internet facilitates terrorist radicalization, assess the dilemmas and trade-offs in countering online radicalization, and to provide specific recommendations for our government’s efforts to counter online radicalization.”
The report found that restricting freedom of speech and removing content from the Internet is the least desirable and least effective way to deal with online radicalization. As such, the report recommends that the government refrain from establishing a nationwide filtering system, retain its capability for aggressive take downs of foreign-based websites, and accelerate informal partnerships with leading Internet companies to better understand national security threats and trends in online terrorist propaganda and communication.
The report also recommends that the government take a more proactive role in reducing the demand for radicalization and extremist messages through expanded programs and education efforts that create awareness about online radicalization. The government should put forth a strategy that makes clear who will coordinate these capacity building and outreach efforts, and should serve as an enabler to bring together the private sector, foundations and others to better convey their messages to combat violent extremism online.
To gain strategic intelligence on terrorist groups’ intentions and networks, the report recommends that the government review oversight procedures and clarify the legal framework under which domestic agencies are permitted to monitor and analyze online communications. Instead of trying to remove content online or undercut the demand for it, the government should take advantage of the violent extremists’ and terrorists’ presence in cyberspace and make maximum use of the existing information they are sharing with others.
“Our report recommends that the administration complete its strategy for countering and preventing violent extremism online, make it public, and begin implementation as soon as possible,” said Congressman Hamilton. “The online radicalization of terrorists is here to stay and, therefore, countering it should be a major and continuing priority for the government. These efforts must also evolve as the Internet itself and terrorists’ use of it evolve.”
The new report builds on two previous reports released by BPC’s Homeland Security Project: a 2010 report that highlighted the increasingly homegrown nature of the terrorist threat and a 2011 report that offered practical recommendations for preventing violent radicalization in America.
Click here to read the report.