Ethical and Legal Issues Surrounding Academic Research into Online Radicalisation: a UK Experience

There is a growing body of evidence that terrorists/terrorist groups have increased their use of the Internet to include a move into online social network environments in their efforts to radicalise and potentially recruit and mobilise new members. Both the US and UK governments acknowledge that not enough is known about this phenomenon and there is an urgent need for more substantive research in the area of terrorists’ use of computer-mediated communication. However, research in this area carries with it some serious ethical and legal concerns that cannot and should not be ignored. UK law makes it difficult for terrorism studies researchers and other academics to conduct this online research without potentially violating the law. With careful consideration of the ethical concerns surrounding the methods of data collection, and knowledge of and adherence to Data Protection laws, along with notification of proposed research to the proper law enforcement office to insure compliance with the UK Terrorism Act, it is however possible to move forward with academic integrity and a reasonable assurance that one will not be charged and prosecuted for violations of the Terrorism Acts.

Tags: Ethics, Radicalisation