New studies show that more cases of radicalization occur through the use and consumption of social media and of internet content. At the same time, there are studies which point to the so-called ‘real world’ as the only place to cause violent extremism, in actual fact.
The latter studies, however, mostly follow a frame of dualism, which means that in cases where a terrorist has both been radicalized online and in the physical world (which, by the way, has for years and years been co-shaped by the online world), the online factor is largely ignored to the point where analog radicalization is called the sole reason for persons to perpetrate terrorist acts. This is not so unambiguous after all, if one takes a closer look.
Instead of single-factor argumentation, there should be a holistic appraisal of the genesis of radicalization leading up to extremism – in each case where acts of terrorism has taken place – and with all determinants. This does mean that more has to be done to curb the dangers of radical content.
Bringing about online spaces where dangerous texts and multimedia are nonexistent is very difficult. However, blaming it all on the analog world despite the facts telling a different, more complex, story is deliberate neglect.
I have previously stated that person-to-person grooming is not the only occurrence online when it comes to violent extremism. To the contrary, besides falling prey to grooming, vulnerable persons also consume static posts and literature which may prompt violence, be it for ideological reasons or others.
In the religious context, such texts are not traditional, accepted sources but such which have been written by, for instance, wannabe rebels of the recent past and bygone centuries. Their output embody a distorted world view with a dangerous potential and certainly should be brought out of reach of all those consuming digital content…
Once the online platforms clear, there may be fewer cases of digital radicalization, despite the internet’s continuing potential to radicalize. Hence, the said documents must be kept inaccessible not by one-time deletion but continually.