Are young people at risk of radicalisation in Cornwall via social media?
Terrorist organisations, such as ISIL, are trying to radicalise and recruit young and vulnerable people through the extensive use of social media and the internet. Young people, some as young as 14, have tried to leave the UK to travel to join ISIL and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.
Therefore, I want to highlight this issue both as a parent and a Councillor and to raise the awareness of online harm and how every parent needs to be aware of the risks posed by the online activity of extremist and terrorist groups.
I have in my Councillor role undertaken a couple of bouts of Prevent training. This is about raising awareness of those at risk at radicalisation. We have all seen the news, but radicalisation is not just about groups like ISIL, people are being radicalised on both the extreme left and right wing agenda
The current threat level from international terrorism for the UK is assessed as severe. This means an attack is highly likely. Furthermore, it is unlikely to go below severe. The security levels are:
- Low – and attack is unlikely;
- Moderate – and attack is possible, but not likely;
- Substantial – an attack is a strong possibility;
- Severe – and attack is highly likely;
- Critical – an attack is imminent.
Evidence shows that most terrorist offences committed by people are under the age of 30. People might think the potential for radicalisation in Cornwall does not happen. It does. Whilst the actual numbers of those who have been referred to the pathway cannot be disclosed, 95% of referrals in Cornwall over the last six-years are with those aged 14-25. In the last 12 months all the referrals in Cornwall were for those aged under-18.
Over 60% of the referrals received were related to International Terrorism (ISIS), 15% were for extreme right wing and 20% had no single ideology
Young males are most at risk, and here in Cornwall this is associated with their online gaming and access to chat rooms. Let me be clear, I am not demonising gaming, or gamers, as there are other vulnerabilities associated with each of these cases, but the internet has the largest impact, principally as a source of information and as a communication tool.
Social media is a huge recruiting platform. 50,000 twitter accounts follow ISIL, with each account has around 1000 followers. Other social media platforms are used include:
- YouTube is also used to host videos, both of official ISIL output and videos created by users themselves. Multiple ‘dummy’ accounts will be set up so that when videos are taken down they can be reposted quickly. Users will post YouTube links across their own social media platforms in order to disseminate material, particularly Twitter and Facebook;
- ASK.FM People considering travel to Syria or Iraq sometimes use Ask.fm to ask British jihadis and female ISIL supporters about travel, living standards, recruitment, fighting and broader ideology. The answers given by ISIL supporters are encouraging, saying all their difficulties will be solved if they travel to the region;
- Instagram is used by fighters and ISIL supporters to share the photosets frequently produced by various ISIL media organisations. ISIL supporters also use Instagram to share pictures of their life in Syria, often showing landscapes and images suggesting they are living a full and happy life;
- Tumblr, the blogging site, is exploited by fighters to promote longer, theological arguments for travel. Tumblr is popular with female ISIL supporters, who have written blogs addressing the concerns girls have about travelling to the region, such as leaving their families behind and living standards in Syria;
- On social media, ISIL supporters frequently encourage others to message them on closed peer-to-peer networks when asked for sensitive information, such as on how to travel to the region, what to pack and who to contact when they arrive. Popular private messaging apps include WhatsApp, Kik, SureSpot and Viber.
For help in understanding the social media world, The European Safer Internet Programme http://www.sipbench.eu/ provides information about which are the best tools and which are free for most systems (MAC, Windows, IOS, Linux, windows, Android, Blackberry etc). Additional helpful websites include http://parentinfo.org/ https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/ http://www.connectsafely.org/ https://www.getsafeonline.org/
The purpose of this blog is to raise awareness of some of the threats to our young people, not demonise anyone who may like gaming or uses social media. I hope the information contained is of value. We should all be aware.
If you have concerns about someone being radicalised, you might want to report it via:
- Anti Terrorist Hotline 0800 789 321;
- Call 101;
- Email: email@example.com
- Email: Prevent@cornwall.gov.uk
- If immediate and serious concerns – call ‘999’
Making a referral under Channel will not lead to the individual receiving a criminal record.