Foreign Office must challenge wannabe jihadis on Twitter, says Qulliam foundation

Media Editor

The authors of a far-reaching report on the Internet and Islamic extremism have called on the Foreign Office to take a more active role in Twitter debates and challenge views which encourage young Britons to participate in jihad.

Quilliam, the counter-extremist organisation, also called for schoolchildren to be given lessons in “digital literacy and critical consumption” so that they can better appraise the information they receive via social media.

In its report, Jihad Trending: A Comprehensive Analysis of Online Extremism and How to Counter It, Quilliam criticised the British government’s “counterproductive” policy of tackling the problem by simply shutting down websites.

“Censorship has become a means for them to show that they doing more than they actually are,” said Ghaffar Hussain, one of the authors of the report, which found that blocking sites did “not represent a real solution to countering online extremism” because jihadis took their messages to other parts of the web.

The report called for the British Government to establish a new vehicle on social media “that clarifies government policies and debunks propaganda”.

Mr Hussain told The Independent that the Foreign Office should follow the US State Department and adopt a more proactive strategy on Twitter. “The British Government needs to recognise that young people get their information from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube,” he said. “Extremists are monopolising the narrative of the online debate on issues such as Syria – where is the British Government engaging with them and giving them other options?”

The report highlighted the importance of “counterspeech” messaging on Islamic websites which challenge terrorism using “theologically-rooted counter messaging”.

But it said sites such as Islam Against Extremism and Radical Middle Way "could benefit from better content production and upkeep” and called for such “grassroots initiatives” to be given more public and private sector training and funding to help them become more popular. “In the current environment young people are more likely to frequent sites of a more extremist orientation since these sites not only target the youth directly… but also offer a firm sense of identity and deal with difficult topics.”

The authors rejected the popular notion of the “lone wolf” terrorist radicalised by the Internet, saying that in almost all cases the individuals had established contact with like-minded people offline prior to conducting research on the web. “The Internet is not creating radicals in isolation from the real world,” said Hussain.

In compiling its report Quilliam looked at the online activities of 30 Islamic extremist groups with a presence in the United Kingdom or France. It noted that Boko Haram, the group responsible for the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria, has a dedicated Facebook page with more than 7,500 likes.

The authors found that the most popular Jihadist clips on YouTube were so-called “martyr hailing” films in praise of jihadis who had been killed, with clips of suicide bombings being the second most popular category. It also highlighted the popularity of Salafi Media UK, linked to the Al-Mujahiroun extremist group which was banned by the Blair government. It’s most successful film, “I Used To Be a… Gangster!” in which a former gunman describes his conversion to Islam inside prison, has had nearly 20,000 views.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea