Social media in the present times has emerged as something inevitable for everyone. In some way or the other, it is having an impact on people and their daily lives. According to a Report from the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, United Kingdom, social media has been consciously failing to combat extremism and not doing enough to stop online radicalization. Many nations including India are facing this problem. Companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter are passing the buck on tackling terror and are hiding behind their supranational legal status despite knowing that their websites are being misused in this regard.
We have moved towards a world where the threat of terrorism does not confine itself to be coming up from the other side of the border only. These people are actually those citizens who can be easily brainwashed based on a certain ideology and are prompted to take certain terrorist acts. Individuals pick up this ideology and get radicalized within 1-2 months. Earlier it took 1-2 years to pick up persons, assess them, know their inclinations, train and evaluate them as per a certain ideology.
Role of Internet in Radicalization:
- Social media provides certain form of anonymity for propagation of ideologies. It also acts as a platform for early recruitment of youths in terrorist organizations.
- Technological information can be provided in a very rudimentary manner. For example: Getting information about making explosives at home can become very easy after watching a certain type of video. A common person has access to this information as well.
- Terrorist groups work as a dispersed network. If some websites are closed or shut down for their posts, they can easily access some other social media platform for propagating their ideas because social media platforms have instantaneous and worldwide reach.
For example: When Twitter removed tweets related to terrorism, IS moved to Diaspora. Diaspora is a social media platform that provides total anonymity and security and once something is posted, the website cannot take it away or remove it.
- These days the basic use of internet is done by terrorist groups for two purposes: propagation of ideas and communication. Communication is end to end encrypted now and there is no practical way for any intelligence agency to decrypt these communications in real time.
- Organizations prefer for decentralized planning of terrorist attacks and the reason lies in the fact that if the planning is done from one centre or in centralized manner, they can be easily targeted by those against them. It is easier to open a franchise operation for them because it gives the attacker a sense of belongingness and identity that they are working on terrorist organization’s behalf and serving its purpose.
For example: The recent attacks in France, Belgium and Germany were of this nature and it is very difficult to control every individual.
Indian Scenario and what needs to be done:
As far as India is concerned, there have been cases of youths from Maharashtra and Kerala who wanted to join IS. There was a case of a corporate executive in Bengaluru who had lakhs of followers for his ideas supporting IS ideology.
- Section 79 of the Information Technology Act 2000 says that Intermediaries, like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter are not liable for third party information if they observe due diligence while discharging their duties. Further if the companies take action within 36 hours of complaint made to them for content, then one cannot move to court against them. There are other provisions in this Act but they are not applied in a stringent manner.
- If there is a complaint regarding any content, there is no institutional mechanism where a user can put forward his complaint. Institutions such as Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) are there in UK to counter online extremism and India needs to have such mechanisms. Although there are some police patrolling pages on Facebook but are not very popular yet. Most of the people don’t know about it.
- An inclusive and transparent approach to community outreach is necessary. Citizens need to be aware of any suspicious person or activity and report it to the concerned authorities. Their involvement will also help to put a check on these activities up to some extent at least.
- There is a need for the Indian agencies countering terrorism to link up with international agencies likeEuropol or Interpol as they make considerable contributions in combating extremism and terrorism.
- The servers are located outside India and therefore, they are beyond the control of the Government of India.
- Whenever social media is touched, the response from civil society is terrible. They don’t want to be restricted in any way unmindful of the actual problems.
- Attitude of US Government on putting restrictions on social media by India is taken as efforts to curb freedom of speech and expression. It is a medium of soft power for US
- Technically there are no algorithms, neural networks or artificial intelligence mechanism with which these social platforms can put a check on the bulk of posts being made every day.
Although no company wants to willfully promote terrorism but terrorism, radicalization and extremism are something that has taken a gigantic shape. It needs simultaneous efforts both nationally and internationally to eradicate this disease.