Geneva, 18 September 2014 - The role of the Internet in radicalization constituted the main issue of a side event organized by our Institute during the 27th session of the Human Rights Council.

During the discussion moderated by Dr. Imène Ajala, Project Manager at IIPJHR, the panel analyzed the role of the Internet in promoting radicalization and extreme ideologies leading European nationals to fight in Syria and Iraq.

Dr. Erin Saltman, Senior Researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, explained the myth of the “lone wolf” and showed that the first point of contact for radicalization remains offline. The Internet, she said, mainly serves to indoctrinate, educate, and socialize. She highlighted the inefficiency of reactive policies and insisted on the necessity of coming up with creative counter-narratives, as well as pre-emptive monitoring.

Mr. Benjamin Ducol, Researcher at Laval University in Québec, emphasized the globalization of the jihadi narrative online and the rising centrality of social networking media platforms. He also warned against overestimating the role of the Internet and concluded that real life relationships remain pivotal elements in the radicalization process.  

Mr. Jean-Paul Rouiller, Director of the Geneva Centre for Training and Analysis of Terrorism (GCTAT), illustrated the role of different tools used on the Internet, such as social networking media platforms, through individual cases. He specifically stressed the issue of the speed of radicalization and the overtness of digital processes.

Ms. Karolina Jaros, Research Associate with TRAC (Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium), provided a range of illustrations regarding the sophistication of online communication. She depicted the profiles of radical group supporters, and highlighted the use of narratives and codes that appeal to young people and their culture.

The Institute will follow up on this issue with a side event on the management of returnees in March 2015 during the 28th session of the Human Rights Council.