Social media can be used to rehabilitate radicalised youth
KARACHI: Just as the internet is helping extremists spread their message of hate, the same medium can be used to rehabilitate people, said the founding director of Moonshot CVE UK, Ross Frenett.
He was addressing the audience on the second day of the International Conference on Issues of Radicalisation in Migrant Urban Societies: A Comparative Assessment of Pakistan and Europe, via Skype from London. The session was titled, ‘Cyber Strategies’.
To get his point across, Frenett used the example of a young boy in London who was a former jihadi and had worked for the IS before he came on board with Moonshot. “We asked him to send messages of peaceful teachings of Islam to his friends who were pro-IS, or in the future, wanted to work for the organisation.” In response, the young boy even received death threats, recalled Frenett, adding that he then simply texted his friends: “I am sorry if you think like this. Let me know if you need my help at any moment.”
Sometime later, several boys, who were influenced by jihadi organisations, actually contacted this young man, asking for help, claimed Frenett.
Frenett said the influence of the internet can be judged by the very fact that young boys and girls, after viewing a single pro-militant video, go to Syria to work and fight for the IS. He said the feature of Facebook demographics search has made it very easy to find those people who are propagating the message of pro-jihadi organisations. “During a research study, we surveyed a list of boys aged 23-24, unemployed and educated, living in London and have liked the Facebook pages of Taliban and IS,” said Frenett, adding that as a result, 160 potential extremists were identified.
A representative of Bolo Bhi, Madiha Latif, lashed out at the cybercrime bill, terming it a violation of the right to free speech and freedom of information. “The state wants you to think only want they want you to think,” she told the audience. For Latif, the government has failed to control hate speech, both online and offline. She requested the state to reconsider the bill, because not only will the bill legalise censorship in Pakistan, it will control speech and opinions too.
She was of the view that social media is an important tool for the nation, especially for the youth, granting them the opportunity to mobilise the masses, educate themselves and access online educational programmes. As an example, she quoted the social media victory of the PTI in the last general elections.
The chairperson of the department of international relations at the National Defence University, Dr Mohammad Khan said that 80 per cent of the warfare today is based on cyber tools, and nations must address this cyber threat with hostile and defensive programmes. “Many terrorists and radical people reveal during interrogation how they were radicalised after viewing extremist websites.”
Another speaker, Commodore Arshad Hussain, said that social media is the one tool where all these cyber terrorists communicate. He added that cyberspace plays important role in terrorism by providing virtual schools for terrorist activities. Hussain suggested that there must be coordination between the private sector and the government on the state policy of using the internet because most of the social media sites are run by the private sector.