Internet Governance Forum 2018 calls for increased efforts to prevent online radicalization of youth

20 November 2018

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Panelists to the Workshop on Preventing Youth from Online Radicalization leading to Violent Extremism
© UNESCO

UNESCO organized a workshop on Preventing Youth from Online Radicalization leading to Violent Extremism in Paris, France on 13 November 2018. During the event, experts emphasized the important role of young people, civil society and government institutions in addressing the issue.

Mr Marc Hecker from the Institut français des relations internationals (IFRI) denoted that case studies of terrorists using, the internet show that the Internet is being used in four ways as a tool for radicalization: as a radical library, as a recruitment platform, as a means of communication and as a tool to plan operationally attacks. In order to counter efficiently the use of Internet for radicalization, strategies or policies are to be designed, implemented and monitored addressing the phenomena.

Several countries work hand in hand with stakeholders in developing approaches to deal with online violent extremism and these best practices can be duplicated on a regional scale or in other countries, remarked Mr Saddem Jebali, from the Youth organization co-founder of Intric8. However, in addressing the question of online violent extremism it is important not to intrude on the privacy of citizens, while at the same time assuring a safe online environment. As Lillian Nalwoga from Internet Society Uganda also remarked, Internet can be a double-edged sword.

Youth initiatives designed by youth for youth need to be promoted in a multistakeholder way. The IFAP Bureau, represented by the immediate past Chair of IFAP, Ms Chafica Haddad reiterated that it is important to give young people the tools that will allow them to resist those who attempt to manipulate them using grooming techniques linked to social media and other digital means. It is impossible to overemphasize the need for all nations to promote actively media information literacy and the ethics of online discourse.

Furthermore, Ms Divina Frau-Meigs, UNESCO Chair in Savoir Devenir from the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle encouraged policy-makers to engage in a range of media and information literacy initiatives as a sustainable approach to address online violent extremism.  Other strategies that countries can pursue include gathering proof about the issue, engaging in counter-messaging and blocking or deleting content. 

Mr Boyan Radoykov, from the Knowledge Societies Division of UNESCO, who moderated this workshop, emphasized that the Information for All Programme (IFAP) has played a crucial role in initiating and facilitating policy dialogue on the issue of online radicalization leading to violent extremism. It did so by organizing a series of high-level international conferences and regional meetings, raising awareness about the related info-ethical issues and by empowering youth in countering online radicalization through specific capacity-building activities.  He concluded that an increased mobilization is still required for coping successfully with the threats of violent extremism and radicalization of youth through the reinforcement of the existing multi-stakeholders partnerships and the development of adapted policies and competences to respond to these and new challenges so that a safe cyberspace be secured for young people.