Online-driven terror calls for new strategy

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024 06:00 | By
National Counter Terrorism Centre logo. PHOTO/NCTC/Facebook
National Counter Terrorism Centre logo. PHOTO/NCTC/Facebook

In 2016, the government developed the National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism to drain our society of radicalisation and recruitment into violent extremism.

The strategy, which is being implemented by the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and other relevant agencies, managed to secure the physical space where radicalisation was manifesting.
However, the extremists have now adopted emerging technologies to recruit vulnerable Kenyans, especially the youth, and to ultimately mobilise them to violence.

They have also become more adept at exploiting social media, smaller websites with targeted audiences, and encrypted chat applications to radicalise, recruit, fundraise and propagate their narratives.

To broaden the reach of their hateful ideology, they have also resorted to using local languages in the digital platforms which are less commonly used, further complicating efforts to detect through technology.

Through technology, they can collaborate across borders, fundraise, share attack plans and training manuals, rally ideological support, and disseminate materials that mobilise followers to violence, including by amplifying attacks.

Due to this morphing nature of terrorism, there is an urgent need to review this 2016 strategy to align with the evolving trends.

The government needs to expedite the ongoing review of the strategies to counter this, strengthen civilian-led counterterrorism approaches and legislation within the criminal justice system.

Apart from the government interventions and efforts to proactively address extremists’ use of emerging technology, parents should also monitor what their children can access in the online spaces where radicalization seems to flourish.

Some of the latest research show that extremists are getting younger and spending more time online, including by playing active roles there. Experts also warn that those who spend more time online also face an increased likelihood of engaging with hateful or potentially radicalizing content.

Even as the security agencies work round the clock to protect Kenyans against terror attacks, similar efforts should also be made to fight the insidious spread of an evil ideology.

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