Internet ‘increasingly important’ in radicalizing extremists – research

Terrorists are now more likely to be radicalized online, but conspiracies on the internet are likely to fail, research shows.

Academics have looked at the role the internet played in the radicalization of 437 convicted extremist offenders in England and Wales in a study published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

He said the internet was “increasingly important” in radicalisation, but plots by online radicalized attackers were “very likely” to be foiled.

A third of the sample of criminals considered in the research had mental health issues or personality disorders. The most frequently reported conditions included autism spectrum status (ASC) and depression, these “most common” among those primarily radicalized online, according to the findings.

Analysis of expert reports from 2010 to the end of last year also suggested that the greatest increase in online radicalization over time was among women offenders and people over the age of 25, the authorities said. researchers.

The report states: “Findings suggest that the internet has become increasingly important in radicalization pathways and offenses over time for convicted extremists in England and Wales.

“Advancements in technology have led to changes in the types of applications/platforms used over time.

“Mental health problems, neurodivergence and personality disorders/difficulties were relevant for a significant proportion of the sample, with CSA, depression and personality disorders/difficulties recorded as the most common types of disorder. more common, especially for those who have radicalized primarily online.

“For attackers specifically, those exposed to online influences in their radicalization journey were more likely to use the online domain for attack planning behaviors…

“Those attackers reported to be primarily radicalized online were found to be the least effective at planning attacks and the most likely to have their plots foiled at the planning stage.”

The research was carried out by the universities of Nottingham Trent (NTU) and Bournemouth with the Prison and Probation Service and follows a report published last year.

Lead author Dr Jonathan Kenyon said the study provided a “contemporary picture” of the online activities of convicted extremists in England and Wales up to the end of 2021 and found “marked differences ” in behavior and delinquency between those who have become radicalized on the Internet, in person or a mixture of both. This underscores the importance of taking these factors into account when “assessing risk” and how to counter terrorism, he said.

Dr Jens Binder, an associate professor of psychology in NTU’s School of Social Sciences, said mainstream websites and apps were “systematically” used, “sometimes to reach out to the many users there and to lead some some to more isolated online sites”, which is “likely to require a more proactive and transparent approach from technology companies”, so radical content is flagged.

Dr Christopher Baker-Beall, senior lecturer in crisis and disaster management at Bournemouth University’s Center for Disaster Management, stressed that the findings ‘did not suggest that people with mental illness represent a community whose terrorists are more likely to be native. The report also does not suggest that mental illness is considered a predictor of terrorist intent. Instead, it stresses the importance of providing mental health support to those convicted of extremist offenses to ensure they do not re-offend or commit further acts of terrorism.”

The Justice Department said the views expressed in the report are those of the authors and “are not necessarily shared” by the department, adding, “Nor do they represent government policy.”

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