Why Do Online Countering Violent Extremism Strategies Not Work? The Case of Digital Jihad

This article discusses the reasons why content moderation and control in cyberspace, being a primary means of online countering violent extremism (CVE), does not work as intended. It makes four main arguments. Firstly, despite years of efforts from CVE stakeholders, the propaganda of militant Islamist VEOs is still easily accessible on the Internet. This study has mapped hundreds of addresses engaged in digital jihadist activities at the turn of 2020–2021. It effectively proves that the current approach to online CVE brought few tangible effects. Secondly, these programs have been unevenly applied to militant Islamist organizations. There have been groups which represent violent extremist ideology but are not actively combated by stakeholders. As a result, these groups have been able to establish a solid foothold on the surface web. Thirdly, the efficiency of CVE strategies based on content takedowns are decreased by the relative ease of terrorists reestablishing banned communication channels, the availability of vast alternatives for online propaganda dissemination, the introduction of impractical legislation by governments, overlapping jurisdictions on the Internet and the “Streisand effect.” Finally, adequate strategies aimed at curbing digital jihad should be primarily based on offline and online activities which fall outside of the remit of CVE.

Tags: Al-Qaeda, countering violent extremism, CVE, digital jihad, Islamic State, Propaganda