Von Behr, I., Reding, A., Edwards, C. & Gribbon, L.-2013
The internet has brought extensive change in peoples’ lives. It has revolutionised how we communicate and simplified the way we create networks among like-minded individuals. We live in an era in which 84 per cent of the EU population use the internet daily, including 81 per cent of whom access it from home (Eurostat, 2012). This development has led to important changes in the organisation and functioning of society, and as violent extremists and terrorists form part of this society, it is widely assumed that the internet plays a particular role as a tool of radicalisation (Aly, 2010; Awan, 2007; Friedland, 2009; O’Rourke, 2007; Tucker, 2010). There is, however, very limited evidence available to assess this assumption. This paper presents the results from exploratory primary research into the role of the internet in the radicalisation of 15 terrorists and extremists in the UK. The 15 cases were identified by the research team together with the UK Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and UK Counter Terrorism Units (CTU). The research team gathered primary data relating to five extremist cases (the individuals were part of the Channel programme, a UK government intervention aimed at individuals identified by the police as vulnerable to violent extremism), and ten terrorist cases (convicted in the UK), all of which were anonymised. The team conducted interviews with the Senior Investigative Officers (SIOs) involved with the terrorists and Channel participants, and investigated the individuals’ online behavior from data recovered by the police directly from the individuals’ computers. The team then conducted a literature review and developed a number of hypotheses or assertions found in the literature on the role of the internet in the process of radicalisation. These hypotheses were tested using primary data from the above
mentioned 15 cases.