Rohit Mehrotra Writes: Abuse of social media and internet by various extremists and terror groups for promoting their ideology, showcasing their exploits and recruitment of personnel into their fold is on the rise. Islamic State has been a frontrunner in the exploitation of online space for furthering its sinister designs besides its occupation of land in Iraq and Syria. As per the article “Digital Counterinsurgency: How to Marginalise the Islamic State Online?” by Jared Cohen, an estimated 20000 foreign recruits have joined the ranks of ISIS and were recruited through Internet; either contact through the Internet or indoctrination through online propaganda. There is little to doubt about the efficacy of the role played by the Internet on radicalization as it is seemingly providing a ready platform for propaganda, luring youth for recruitment, raising of funds, cyber-attacks and giving a fillip to the nefarious designs of ISIS.
The ISIS effectively used the digital domain for ‘psychological warfare’ in its run up to capture of Mosul in June 2014 where in an extensive online campaign it threatened the local population of death and destruction and swayed the result in its own favour. The Islamic State is exploring various avenues and getting in to the realms of Information Warfare. This surge in activities of the Islamic State encompassing territorial gains, influx of foreign mercenaries, extremist attacks and increase in propaganda both through offline and online means needs to be addressed and contained on priority. Neutralising the digital threat by correct understanding of the digital domain is essential and will include identifying the preferred ISIS social media platforms, operatives including the background support staff and sympathisers, modus operandi and funding of Islamic State’s digital effort. The absence of requisite regulatory mechanisms along with limited government control over the Internet compound the problem further and need to be dealt with in a holistic manner.
As on date, the governments in conjunction with the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) resort to enhanced Internet surveillance leading to removing contents, blocking accounts associated with terrorism to prevent glorifying or inciting acts of terrorism. This of course is not a permanent solution as mere content based filtering approach / blocking / deactivation of accounts will not serve the purpose. There is an urgent need to implement online counter terrorism measures addressing these concerns. It is imperative that a counter-terrorism strategy based on supplementing traditional war with a full scale digital war be launched against this misuse of digital domain wherein the activities and both online and offline presence of these terror groups is totally ‘blacked out’ with the aim to defeat them.