The Use of Counter Narratives to Combat Violent Extremism Online

Due to recent rises in extremism across the globe (Dean et al. in J Polic Intell Count Terror 11:121–142, 2016; Le Roux in Responding to the rise in violent extremism in the Sahel. Africa Center For Strategic Studies, 2019, p. 26) and (Jones in Int Secur 32:7–40, 2008), governments and law enforcement organisations, such as the police, have looked to new strategies to counter violent extremism (Russell and Theodosiou in Counter-extremism: a decade on from 7/7. Quilliam Foundation, 2015). Specifically, there has been an expanse of the field now widely known as Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). CVE is a highly contested area; however, upon conducting a literature review, Inserra (Revisiting efforts to counter violent extremism: leadership needed. The Heritage Foundation, 2015, p. 2) helpfully reduced the term CVE down to descriptions of interventions intended to “stop individuals from radicalizing”. LaFree and Freilich (Annu Rev Criminol 2:383–404, 2019) distinguish counter-terrorism from CVE, they describe counter-terrorism as military responses (‘hard’) as opposed to non-military responses (‘soft’), referred to as countering violent extremism strategies. This chapter contends that, although counter narratives tend to lack academic standing, there does appear to be a widespread acceptance that narratives influence individuals’ beliefs. Therefore, in the absence of other more effective methods of CVE online, it is argued that counter-narratives (CN) should be used in informed ways by organisations such as the police (Monaghan in Crime Media Cult 18(1):21–39, 2020). This chapter will compare academic understandings of narrative and communication alongside examples of counter narratives issued against them. It will then assess the impact of such strategies and potential alternatives for CN.

Tags: counter narratives, Countering violent extremism online, Cyber Terrorism, Digital policing, Extremism, Internet, Online radicalisation, Radicalisation, terrorism, Violent extremism