One to One Online Interventions: A Pilot CVE Methodology

The internet permeates all aspects of modern life and violent extremism is no exception. Although the level of importance is sometimes disputed, few would deny the role that online communication has in driving people towards violent extremist groups. While there are various perspectives on the exact nature of this process, it is increasingly agreed upon that it is rare for individuals to radicalise entirely in absence of any outside communication. Radicalisation remains a social phenomenon and the fact that some of these social interactions have migrated online does not change this. Extremists do not simply produce and disseminate propaganda and then move straight to offline recruitment, they utilise peer to peer messaging applications contained within social media platforms to engage in direct personal contact with potential recruits to their cause. Sometimes these online conversations completely displace offline recruitment.

Extremist propaganda is often removed and there are examples of nascent efforts to counter this throught the creation of counter-narrative campaigns. Counter-narratives, and offline counter-recruitment programmes such as EXIT and Channel, counter efforts of extremists to promote propaganda online and recruit in the offline world. This highlights the fact that there is a crucial piece missing in our efforts to counter recruitment to extremist groups; the proactive utilisation of peer to peer messaging systems online to engage with those expressing extremist sympathies.

Over the course of ISD’s management of the AVE network we encountered a number of isolated attempts to engage directly with extremists online, from former extremists infiltrating extremist forums to Twitter conversations between activists and extremist sympathisers. However none of these efforts had been attempted at scale none had had testing and success
metrics built in from the start. As such, any evidence gained as to their effectiveness was anecdotal at best.

Tags: CVE, methodology