Prepared by the researcher
- Mourad Hafssaoui, Researcher in Media and Communication, Morocco
- Lamia Fouzi, Researcher student in Linguistics, Morocco
Democratic Arabic Center
Journal of extremism and armed groups : Twelfth Issue – August 2023
A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin
:To download the pdf version of the research papers, please visit the following link
This study deals with how new media faces the challenges of terrorism and the extent of the relationship between them. Moreover, tries to understand the reasons behind the terrorist operations, and the spreading of extremist and terrorist ideologies through social media. Also, this study tends to show the efforts exerted to combat terrorism and offer helpful strategies to the media in order to confront it.
The means of media and communication have increased and developed in recent years, thanks to the scientific development and modernization of digital technology that occurred in the twenty-first century, and among the most prominent of some means that have known new and modern digitization are the new media applications. These new and interactive digital media, which have known rapid and hurry have intertwined between the Internets, Smartphone, computers have made information, news, and facts move quickly and tightly, reaching the recipient in a few seconds. This information, texts, images, videos, and sounds are stored in a secure system, which makes it displayed and exchanged by the recipient in an interactive way that is updated or modified by the user.
New media applications, based on their effectiveness and wide dissemination, play an important and fundamental role in raising and drawing the attention of the audience to modern events and issues. In addition, it has become a major source of information, from which the recipient draws news and emerging issues, especially issues related to the security, social and political aspects, such as issues of conflicts, wars and crises. The degree of public dependence on new media increases when information and news are scarce in order to search for opinions, interpretations, and appropriate analysis of the event or issue. Because the recipient cannot form a specific position or idea except by collecting the amount of information and data obtained, and this confirms the ability of the new media and its applications in shaping the opinion of the receiving public and bringing about changes in individual practices of society.
Terrorism has now become a major challenge to the countries of the world because it caused the feeling of instability and security and has caused a disruption of the societal system based on stability, peace, and safety, and the matter has been further complicated by the terrorist attacks that strike everywhere and at all times. According to the importance that has been mentioned regarding the new media, the latter has turned into a platform and a means of propaganda for groups and terrorist organizations which have found their way to achieve their actions and goals, spread their beliefs and broadcast them to a large number of target audiences. And create fear among people and destabilize them through pictures and videos which are far from monitoring.
The value of new media has become a major source of events, news, and the accompanying new and timely information and that because of the importance that the topics and incidents of terrorism gained in society, and the trouble in norms, values, and systems. Terrorist events considered as the greatest and most valuable news because they gain more interest to the recipient today. Therefore, it can be said that the new media has become today an interactive and fast news platform, because it allows obtaining information in a variety of direct and recorded forms, in addition to the speed it possesses in transmitting events and the margin of freedom in publication and distribution. All these features and others made the new media a competitor or rather an independent platform with a wide audience of followers.
Terrorist groups employ the means of communication and media applications to achieve their goals on several levels, whether at the intellectual level by mobilizing sympathizers and youth through an intellectual discourse that contains violence, sedition, and declaring some groups of society to be infidels or at the practical level by strengthening their ability to carry out terrorist operations, or at the psychological level by spreading a culture Fear and insecurity to exaggerate the psychological effects associated with terrorist operations, and all this in order to spread chaos in societies and ignore the role of the state and its inability to provide and control community security.
It is proven that confronting terrorist ideology presents many problems that are becoming increasingly difficult with the increase in the development of new media applications and websites, which have made the process of using and exchanging information as a process characterized by fluidity, which makes controlling it difficult especially when thinking about codifying and controlling it. The feature of new media is a source of threat if it is employed in a negative way, and this is what terrorist groups realize and work to invest in their interest until we are witnessing a continuous development in how terrorist groups benefit from the capabilities of the Web and new media sites on them.
Based on the foregoing, we will focus in this chapter on the issue of terrorism, its relationship to the new media, and the public’s interest in this new type, which has largely dominated the rest of the other media. Moreover, we will survey the views of a sample of those interested in media affairs, and their attitudes towards what is circulated and published through new media platforms and applications with regard to issues and topics of terrorism in particular, especially since some accuse the new media of being media that falsifies the truth and misleads.
- The relationship of terrorism with the new visual media
- Characteristics of new media and the phenomenon of terrorism
The new media has many advantages that make it a new media that gains speed and opens the way for everyone to invest in this new type in a positive, successful, influential, and effective manner. The new media has many advantages that make it a new media that gains speed and opens the way for everyone to invest in this new type in a positive, successful, influential, and effective manner. However, a group of hate speeches and electronic recruitment emerged on the public scene through media applications, and freedom that is not limited by censorship and the limits of time and space allows the dissemination of malicious news and rumors, and false ideas and leads to links to networks of organized crime and terrorism, and other potential risks and crises. Among the characteristics that characterized the new media are:
- Ease of use.
- Communication and self-expression.
- Shaping society in new ways.
Terrorist organizations and groups have a great ability to control the media, the means of communication, and information media. Also, adapt them in carrying out their criminal operations and plans, and promoting their extremist ideas to create a larger base to influence the audience. Moreover, recruit some of them into their ranks after gaining their sympathy, which confirms that the media has become the only platform that can direct public opinion, and the first weapon used by terrorists to control the individual and society.
Additionally, relying on the new digital media to promote terrorist discourse leads to motivating weak and often oppressed social groups to adopt extremist ideology and the terrorist option, as well as spreading fear and confusion. Also, conveying instructions and messages intended to be sent to inactive or active cells, or gaining the support of other groups.
- Digital media is a suitable environment for terrorist practice
The concept of new media is related to the nature of the new communication medium in the world of communication and media. Researchers have indicated that what the new media means is the same meaning that refers to the current state of modern communication discoveries. Just like the era of the discovery of printing was a new epoch of communication. The new media has recently been linked to the global information network (the Internet), its platforms and social networks, and the websites that host it.
There are many names for the new media, due to the different visions between the theorists of the humanities. Some of its names are digital media, interactive media, web media, cyber media, information media, hypermedia, and social media. Multimedia and Electronic Media all of these names came according to the changes and characteristics enjoyed by the new media and its applications.
The roles played by these media outlets in helping to create violence and develop the ideology of extremism and terrorism – directly or indirectly – can be summarized as follows:
- The space of absolute freedom granted by the International Information Network to adherents of extremist ideology and its promotion (Online Radicalization) by providing opportunities to publish their statements, books, films, and recordings all over the world in an easier way.
- Intimidating and exaggerating the strength of terrorists to achieve press excitement and public turnout for the purpose of material profit in light of fierce competition.
- The dominance of the news character over the media coverage of terrorists and the absence of analytical and explanatory coverage.
- The lack of some of these means experts and specialists in the security, social, psychological, and educational fields; To convince the viewer of the truth of the event and not get carried away by media exaggeration.
- Some satellite channels display tragic scenes and depictions of the damage in a repeated and exaggerated manner, in addition to broadcasting terrorists’ viewpoints without giving them the opportunity to expose and respond to them.
Media support for terrorism in electronic media is reflected in many images, including:
- Cyber Threatening: Multiple terrorist methods of online threatening to kill public figures, threatening explosions in live centres or sports gatherings, and threatening to launch viruses to damage the world’s information systems.
- Electronic bombardment: an attack on the information network by directing hundreds of thousands of electronic messages to the network’s sites; This increases the pressure on its ability to receive messages from its dealers, leading to the suspension of the network’s work. One of the websites bombed is Amazon’s website for sales, as well as CNN’s website for news on the Internet; This has slowed the flow of information for a period of time.
- Destroy information systems: an attempt to penetrate the information network of individuals, companies or public institutions; With the aim of disrupting the contact point or system by making types of new viruses that cause a lot of damage to computer devices and the information stored on these devices.
- Electronic espionage: An example of information piracy by some terrorist entities to obtain military information stored in the memory of the ministries of defence in the target countries is what happened in the summer of 1994, when one of these terrorist organizations was able to steal military information related to vessels used by NATO member states’ armies from the computer systems of the Navy.
The new media unintentionally promotes terrorism and gives it an important informational value, especially in light of the goals that are intended to be achieved behind the terrorist acts. Terrorists get free publicity linked to the reports published by the media, through which they get the number of views and the value of the ads published in them increases.
The media that terrorist organizations follow depends mainly on the new media, which constitutes the basis for spreading their contents, ideas, and ideology, and the immediate and measured impact across borders. Because the new media is in the era of a global movement, its influence has become much stronger than the traditional media, which depends on television broadcasting.
The large and hasty emergence of the new media and the exploitation of terrorist organizations for its electronic and social applications promoted its ideas and extremist intellectual discourses by making media propaganda for it, adapting the media, and controlling the communication field. The role-played by the various media in supporting violence and extremism, feeding it, and helping the emergence of terrorist acts cannot be overlooked.
Terrorist organizations began to use the new media to communicate with the world, and to own audiovisual production facilities in order to produce films and videotapes in different languages, to reach a larger number of individuals and groups, and to move to societies that are geographically and intellectually distant from them.
Terrorist organizations have strengthened their ability to influence others by using new media through various tactics of psychological operations, and increasingly employ social media as a tactic in their unequal battle. The Internet is an effective means of spreading its ideology to a global audience. Because it is fast, cheap, easily accessible, unstructured, anonymous, multimedia-friendly, and new media applications are open rather than closed.
Terrorist organizations relied on what they call Media Jihad and considered it as a cornerstone in organizing their groups and movements. By investing in the technological and communication revolution in broadcasting advocacy messages and jihadist ideas, to clearly justify armed violence, by defending people, minorities, and religious beliefs against genocidal movements, And the indication that jihad is an obligation sanctioned by religion. The media discourse here focuses on the idea of “sacrifice” and the act of “martyrdom” to confront tyranny and injustice.
The analysis of the content of media discourses of the terrorist organizations reveals the republishing of their media content and content through new media applications. Which indicates the great interdependence between terrorist and extremist groups in a way that increases the difficulty of limiting them, and the spread of their beliefs and idea because they depend on organized planning to benefit among the applications of new media, expanding the circle of presence, and spreading among the public more. Terrorist propaganda is also designed specifically to win over vulnerable and marginalized individuals and groups. The recruitment process usually focuses on exploiting feelings of injustice, exclusion, or humiliation. Demographic variables such as age, gender, and socioeconomic status are factors that facilitate the flow of targeted psychological operations campaigns.
Studies have shown that the disparity in members of the public’s perception of the impact of media messages on themselves and others can be explained in the light of two key factors; First:
- Devaluing the effects of media messages on the self; Perloff assumes: “In order to retain one’s self-worth and self-esteem and enhance one’s positive image of oneself, the individual is subjected to cognitive processes that lead him to claim that he has not been affected by the media content to which he is exposed, even if he has already been affected.” This assumption was confirmed by several studies which found that “individuals have what they call self-bias; meaning that they see themselves less affected by negative messages than others; because they are smarter than others “.
- The second factor is: overestimation of the effects of media messages on others; The perloff states: “Individuals have knowledge structures that include a set of beliefs that the media is capable of manoeuvring, deceiving and manipulating their ideas.”
Scientists have identified some factors that influence the third person’s perception as follows:
- Exposure intensity: McClaude and his colleagues found that individuals perceived to be more exposed to media messages were individuals classified as most affected, and these findings were consistent with the theory of cognitive dissonance of “Wiestinger”, which addressed relationships between cognitive elements including attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.
- Social Distance: Studies reviewed by Berloff have shown that there is a general tendency in the individual to have cognitive bias of individuals belonging to the same group or individuals who are similar in their attributes, so as to show members of the group to which the individual belongs better than individuals who do not belong to them.
- Level of knowledge or experience: some studies have indicated that the cognitive gap between the impact of media messages on oneself and others increases when researchers believe they are more informed and aware of the issues contained in media messages, supported by the 1991 TIDH study; He argued that the perception gap was increasing and widening in more educated individuals; They consider themselves elite, and their distinctive educational level makes them less influenced by the media than others.
- Public perception of source bias: studies have shown that when individuals realize that the contact person has negative bias, the third person’s influence increases; That is, others are more likely to be deceived by this negative bias.
- Social acceptance of the media message: studies have shown that individuals are more willing to recognize being influenced by media messages that find greater social acceptance than messages that do not find social acceptance; Individuals tend to see themselves better than others, and negative media messages have a strong impact on the attitudes and behaviours of other deluded members of the public; This belief is explained by a tendency to self-esteem.
- Demographic factors: demographic variables such as age and level of education are among the most important cognitive factors influencing individuals’ perceptions of the effects of the media on others and on themselves; Tedge, through his 1991 study, found that the influence of “third person” is greater among older age groups with higher educational levels than researchers.
- Terrorism and the Internet:
The proponents of extremist thought used the Internet in their battle on several axes. The most important and first of which are:
- That the Internet becomes a catalyst for physical, conventional terrorist action, by providing the necessary information on targeted places or using it as an intermediary in the execution process.
- Secondly, the use of the Internet causes psychological effects by inciting to spread hatred, hatred, and a war of ideas.
- Thirdly, the technological capabilities offered by the Internet. By its new mechanisms, members of the terrorist cell are able to specify a digital image through which their battles can be conducted in cyberspace.
The most important elements that serve terrorist cells and which the Internet provides to them, as stated in the annual report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2012, are as follows:
- The possibility of communicating with a wide public base easily (propaganda). Communication technology makes it possible to win the support of some new audiences, and these audiences are often young and educated, and this is what the Islamic State organization in Syria and Iraq “Daesh” does; Mandate through the Internet has become one of the means of “ISIS” in the recent period, especially in the European continent, and the French newspaper “Le Monde” indicated, based on documents related to the organization that it reviewed, that it provided its members with tools and technical advice, and made it available to programs and techniques related to protecting the data of its members. Through the Internet, the organization stresses in its instructions the need to block the IP addresses of its members, use VPNs and encrypt their activity and messages via the Internet. By resorting to electronic programs that are known to be used by political activists and drug and arms dealers around the world, which in most cases allows them to use the Internet without being tracked.
- Cyber attacks eliminating the sites that attack these organizations, and taking revenge for the martyrs among the Mujahedeen and their prisoners, as they put it, in addition to working to harm the morale of the West and striving to inflict the greatest possible economic damage by attacking and disabling some vital sites.
- Lower expenses: Terrorist networks and organizations can have an influential role in national and international events when they own a computer and connect it to a telephone and exchange information through a modem.
- Creating cyber terrorism, the information and communication revolution contributed to the spread of new types of terrorism. In addition, the process of computerizing the infrastructure in many countries of the world has placed in the hands of terrorist organizations of computer experts the ability to achieve severe economic damage without confronting the security services and the measures they take to protect them. The vital targets of terrorist attacks, networks, and information systems these days are one of the main elements in the management of the majority of the activities of the state and society, which makes them valuable prey for terrorist acts.
- Communications, the electronic network helps the members of the terrorist cell to communicate with each other and coordinate with each other and even increases the chances of cooperation with other terrorist organizations. Through these technological capabilities, the leaders of the organization can terrorist groups from communicating with each other and coordinating their actions in parallel. It is also characterized by an abundance of information that can be exchanged by voice and photo.
- Mobilization and recruitment of new terrorists, and this matter maintain the continuity and survival of the cell, and they take advantage of the sympathy of other Internet users with their issues and attract young people with enthusiastic and exciting phrases, especially through chatrooms or electronic chat8.
- Planning, coordinating, and incitement; As the Internet is a very important means of communication for organizations and cells; It allows coordination to launch terrorist attacks, and terrorist cell members (chat, emails, rooms) and others are used to orchestrate terrorist attacks, distribute roles, and coordinate actions and tasks for each member of the cell.
- Obtaining financing, members of terrorist cells obtain online demographic lists to identify people of goodwill. Then, they are begged to pay donations, and alms to legal persons or charitable institutions that represent a front for these terrorists, in ways that the donor does not suspect that he is helping a terrorist organization.
- Giving instructions, e-learning, and training, using visual and audio materials that simplify and explain the methods of making bombs and chemical weapons.
Although cyberspace is characterized as an international media medium that is an attraction to terrorists and its use by them to influence public opinion, recruit new members and raise funds, cyberspace has also become a war scene between terrorists and legitimate devices that attempt to counter this phenomenon, through a number of efforts, including:
- Using the Internet to gather evidence against terrorists by collecting information on their sites, ideas, guidance, and activities they plan.
- Strategic communications; Online discussions provide an opportunity to present different perspectives and engage in discussions, which can have an impact on potential members, through the anti-terrorist narrative and its dissemination in multiple languages to reach a broad and geographically diverse audience.
- The Strategic Counterterrorism Communications Centre, based in the United States and founded in 2011, is an initiative for joint action among various agencies dealing with combating violence and extremism, aimed at reducing extremism and violence on the Internet and responding quickly to counter-terrorism propaganda.
- The international context of counter-terrorism, which has been divided into three patterns; The first type concerns the introduction of cybercrime and the promulgation of national legislation to combat this phenomenon. The second type discusses a number of regional conglomerates seeking to cooperate in the fight against terrorism and cybercrime. The third type starts with urging the United Nations to impose cybersecurity.
- The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, adopted by the General Assembly in 2006, aims to:
- Condemn terrorism in all its forms unequivocally and forcefully, wherever and for whatever purposes, because it constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.
- Take urgent action to prevent terrorism in all its forms and combat its manifestations.
- Bearing in mind that any joint international cooperation to prevent and combat terrorism must comply with the obligations of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations and relevant conventions and protocols.
- Coordinate joint international efforts to combat terrorism and consider the Internet as a tool for combating terrorism, taking into account States’ need for assistance.
- The International Telecommunication Union (GCA) is a global cybersecurity program based on several pillars:
- Develop strategies to develop a model anti-cybercrime legislation that can be applied globally and usable.
- Develop global strategies to create appropriate regulatory structures and public policies at the national and global levels.
- Develop strategies to create a global monitoring, warning and incident response framework to ensure cross-border coordination among new initiatives.
- Develop global strategies to build human and institutional capacities to enhance knowledge and skills.
- Develop proposals for a global multi-stakeholder strategic framework for international cooperation, dialogue and coordination in all areas.
The spaces for spreading extremist and violent ideas and ideologies have expanded with the spread of new media outlets, and with it, the media work has become affected in one way or another, especially with the dominance of the two tendencies of excitement and propaganda in most media outlets, and with it, we have become more than ever demanding rationalization, enlightenment and fighting any thought that may destroy principles and values and threatens peace and security in society.
The degree of public dependence on the new media has also increased due to the information, news, and facts that move through it quickly and tightly and reach the recipient in a few seconds, which confirms the ability of the new media and its applications to bring about changes in the individual practices of society.
However, these positive aspects related to the new media, contain aspects that contribute to creating a communication environment that supports the spread of a culture of violence and intolerance. Also thus, terrorist ideology finds a fertile environment for growth and spread wherever there is a state of ambiguity and confusion in information, and thus the collapse of the communication pattern or context and the flow of information. So, that the recipient is unable to find logical explanations for the events and situations around him.
The jurisprudence of the phenomenon of terrorism and its political backgrounds have changed. Furthermore, it is using everything related to modern technology, the use of the Internet, new media as a center and platform for distributing. Moreover, exchanging information, mobilizing, promoting documents, audio, and visual recordings. Between the aims of this fragmentation policy is to create an environment that will not stop within the limits of destroying state institutions and those who oppose the beliefs and ideas of terrorist groups, but rather eliminate the prestige of the state as a whole, and distort the history of society, its identity, and its collective memory.
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 اﻟﺣدﻳدي ﻣﺣﻣد ﻓﺿﻝ، ﻧظرﻳﺎت الإﻋﻼم: اﺗﺟﺎﻫﺎت ﺣدﻳﺛﻪ ﻓﻲ دارﺳﺎت اﻟﺟﻣﻬور واﻟرأی اﻟﻌﺎم، ﻣطﺑﻌﺔ ﻧﺎﻧﺳﻲ، دمیاط، 2009، ص265.
 ristina Archetti, Terrorism, communication and new media: Explaining Radicalization in the Digital Age, perspectives on Terrorism, (vol.9) No.1, February 2015, p50.
 Avid L. Altheide, The Mass Media and terrorism, Discourse and Communication, 2007, p301.
 UNODC, The use of the internet for terrorist purposes (New York: United Nations, 2012) PP3-11.
 Isabel Kershner, Cyberattack exposes 20,000 Israeli credit card numbers and details about users, (New York Times, 6 January 2012), p47.
 UNODC, THE USE OF THE INTERNET FOR TERRORIST PURPOSES, optic, p12.
 General Assembly resolution 60/288.
 The Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA), “A framework for international cooperation in cybersecurity”, international telecommunication union (ITU) April, 2008.