Online Surveillance and Terrorism

Online interaction is becoming as significant as physical peer-to-peer contact. Much of what we call “community” has moved online. With the emergence of online radicalisation, individuals engaging in cultures of political violence are spatially dispersed. From the far-right to jihadi terrorism, we are moving away from geographically specific communities to “commons” that share psycho-social indicators: employment status, gender, prison time, music tastes, or history of violence are more potent identifiers than one’s mosque of choice or ethnic background. 

TACTICS talks to Quirine Eijkman, who is Professor of Access to Justice at the Research Centre for Social Innovation about the issue of online governance and how a potential terrorist is identified online “…in a democracy we have to ask ourselves who identifies whom and what are the indicators that somebody might pose a threat online”, she says, adding that “the transparency in relation to the indicators that might be an indication of online radicalisation are not so clear. Very often after a terrorist attack, people might say he or she got the information or was radicalised online and in reality its far more complex why somebody radicalises. It might be that they are inspired because of information/social relations online but very often it’s much more complex and it’s not easy to identify what these indicators are…”

Professor Eijkman highlights that this is  a “problematic” process because “there is so much information about all citizens online, the question is if you are not monitoring this on the basis of clear indicators, then you might even identify people that are just politically engaged rather than radicalised.”

In that case, how do we hold those doing the monitoring accountable? As Eijkman tells us “the problem is that in the last decade, these laws have become so broad that the intelligence services in most Western European countries and, certainly, also in the United States, have broad powers to monitor,” and adds “So it is actually legal or lawful but the question is, is it proportionate or not?”

To find out what the best way forward is to watch the full interview with Professor Eijkman below:

Image courtesy of Pixabay by Pete 

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