I have filed articles on ‘analog bias’ when it comes to measures to curb violent extremism (see below). I argue that the so-called ‘real world,’ a.k.a. the analog world, has come to be interconnected with the digital world, both directly and indirectly. That is, virtually everybody takes information from the internet, be it regular text, standard religious material, as well as writings from highly questionable sources, either for themselves or to pass on to vulnerable persons. If the condition is met that grooming interchanges from digital communication to the analog between extremists, that does not constitute ‘real world’ communication in the proper sense – but a mixed scenario.
The trend within extremist circles to exchange information has not been broken by the regulation of social media platforms and chat applications, with extremists switching from one service to the other, bad as it is. There is a need for platforms to continue regulating illegal utterances and exchange, but also to regulate generic terrorist content which I labeled as ‘static.’ Such regulation has not been enforced sufficiently, thus far, contrary to visible messages of groomers.
On a note of caution, there is a danger that, should the internet become too risky to use by extremist plotters, the conversation could fall back onto ‘real-world’ communication, more than before. Both monitoring of the internet and of communication in the ‘real world’ can, for security institutions, be difficult to carry out. With appropriate legal rules in affected countries all over the world, as well as the technical means to do so, controlling the digital world appears to bear important possibilities of feasibility, while a comprehensive, all-of-society approach could, where such a model is followed up on, minimize risks including those of socialization and instruction in the analog world.
In sum, communication in the analog world is, in our time, always mixed with elements of the digital, if not fully digital. This does not only go for activities of lone wolves but for extremists in general, be it non-violent or potentially violent extremists.
Thorsten Koch, MA, PgDip
19 January 2024
The Online and the ‘Real World’
Cause or Amplification? Digital Radicalization and Analog Bias
The Internet as a Co-Determinant of Violent Extremism