Western Foreign Fighters: Innovations in Responding to the Threat

RACHEL BRIGGS OBE & TANYA SILVERMAN, DECEMBER 2014

The security threat posed by so-called ‘foreign fighters’ is an ever-present fear of Western Governments. The departure of European and North American nationals to war zones to participate in conflict or terrorism-related activities presents a number of potential and serious threats.

This paper argues that Western Governments in particular need to expand their efforts to develop measures to effectively counter the foreign fighter phenomenon. Existing legal and policing measures should be supplemented by (a) building resilience to extremist propaganda, both online and offline; (b) prevention of travel through interventions; and (c) reducing the risk represented by radicalised individuals upon their return and providing support for their parents, families and wider communities.

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The Online Ecosystem of the German Far-Right

This report presents the findings of a research project of ISD’s Digital Analysis Unit about the alternative online-ecosystem of the far-right, including alternative social media platforms and alternative media outlets. While these platforms draw in a global audience this report focuses specifically on the German speaking and Germany-focused communities and outlets within this ecosystem. Drawing together ISD’s digital ethnographic work across dozens of forums and channels with the latest in machine learning and natural language processing, this report provides an overview over the size and nature of the far-right communities on these platforms the motivations for participating in these communities and assesses whether banning far-right groups from mainstream platforms leads to the displacement of their followers to ‘alternative’ platforms. We also analyse the role of alternative ‘news’ outlets in disseminating far right concepts, drawing on the‘Hate Observatory’, a joint initiative of ISD and the MIT Media Lab , based on their Media Cloud software, and compare the frequency and types of coverage of far-right themes in mainstream and alternative media. This report also recommends steps to be taken by tech companies, government, civil society and researchers to counter the far-right online.