Since the 1990s, the digital revolution has transformed the interactions of people all over the world. Although the internet was created to be an optimistic medium for information and cultural exchange, its unregulated, largely democratic, and borderless nature of it has led to people harnessing online spaces to manipulate their original purposes. From the creation of the dark web to the emergence of terrorist recruitment sites and the spread of violent viral content; emerging sophisticated and new technologies have shown that extremists will use these platforms and adapt their methods in line with new technological developments.
According to the Online Harms White Paper, “all five terrorist attacks carried out in the UK in 2017 had an online element”. Experts from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London have said: “the menace they present cannot be eradicated”. Whilst, Counter-Extremism Commissioner, Sarah Khan, has criticised Britain’s laws, saying they have “failed to evolve”.
- Why and where does extremism emerge online?
- How do extremists make use of various online platforms? What content do they post?
- What is it about the internet and online platforms, including social media, that facilitates this?
- How are extremists harnessing new and emerging online platforms to spread their hate messages and appeal to specific demographies?
- What is the link between online gaming and extremism?
- Is the internet too vast and fast-moving for us to regulate? Can we truly regulate these online platforms? If so, whose responsibility is it to do so?
This panel will serve to highlight how the online sphere and social media enable manipulation from extremists and allow for the spread of hateful abuse. It will also present some of the current problems associated with regulating online platforms and creating policies fit for countering online forms of extremism and radicalisation.
Finally, Sara Khan’s statement will be examined and alternate approaches, such as whether we can use AI technologies, will be considered before recommendations about amending online extremism policies are proposed.
Panel Series: A Spatial Analysis of Extremism in a UK Context
Dialogue Society is pleased to announce a six-part online panel series “A Spatial Analysis of Extremism in a UK Context” to examine some of the key and complex issues the UK faces from pre-existing and emerging forms of radicalisation and extremism in spaces across our society. In 2019, the UK saw 67 far-right terror attacks and plots, compared with 7 in France and 3 in Germany. These attacks were the highest recorded number in Europe. With growing concern over increasing hatred, radicalisation, and extremism in the UK; from prisons to schools, online and offline platforms, the threat of extremism has shown that it knows no geographical, ethnic, age, social, or religious boundaries. Extremist acts pose a threat to the cohesion of communities in Britain and raise questions about the effects that these acts will have on changing or even restricting the nature of British democracy.
Using case studies of pre-existing and emerging forms of extremism across society, this panel series expects to answer through dialogue the following questions:
- What is extremism, and do we need a new or expanded definition of the term?
- In which new or changing spaces are there new forms of extremism emerging?
- What are the government’s methods and policies for tackling current and emerging forms of extremism?
- Is there room for revision or improvement in the government’s methods and policies?
- Do online platforms facilitate the spread of forms of extremism and if so, how?
- How effective are the current laws surrounding online extremism?
- How, if any, should social media platforms be regulated to prevent extremism online?
- How do the challenges posed by these forms of extremism and hatred affect British democracy, fundamental human rights, and freedoms?
This panel series will build on the Dialogue Society’s previous works on extremism and radicalisation.
The first panel in the series “The challenges of defining and perceiving extremism in a UK context” will firstly review and evaluate the current definition of extremism proposed by the UK Government, before policies on combatting extremism are introduced and evaluated for their efficacy.
The following next three panels focus on pre-existing, emerging, or changing forms of extremism in football, climate change activism, and prisons. These panels will review and evaluate relevant policies and methods adopted by the Government to address the new forms of extremism in new or changing spaces. They will also discuss whether the government’s current definition of extremism is adequate for addressing these trends.
Lastly, the online dimension to extremism, used as both a primary or faciliatory method to carrying out extremism will be unpacked before the challenges of legislating and regulating these mediums are outlined.
Reflections and recommendations will be submitted from our panellists in each panel.
The culmination of this series will be the writing and publication of a policy paper using the interdisciplinary discussions raised by our experts.