Measuring the impact of disrupting terrorists online

The Home Office is seeking to fund a number of small research projects to measure the impact of disruption and removal of online terrorist content.

Sep 1, 2016
By Paul Jacques

The Home Office is seeking to fund a number of small research projects to measure the impact of disruption and removal of online terrorist content.

It says the internet has “transformed the way that terrorist and extremist organisations can spread their message”, influencing and radicalising individuals across borders. It enables groups such as so-called Islamic State (Daesh) to reach a global audience, with “compelling and tailored messaging,” exposing people to illegal and dangerous content.

“Groups like Daesh are using the internet to inspire, radicalise, recruit and enable attack planning,” said the Home Office tender, which closed this week. “We have also seen evidence of young and vulnerable people having online conversations with radicalisers who aim to take them into closed online spaces to discuss issues such as, how to prepare for and travel to Syria and how to carry out terrorist attacks in the UK.

“Tackling terrorist and extremist content on the internet is vital in restricting access to, and preventing the spread of, propaganda and messaging. Government and police are undertaking a range of measures to tackle such content.”

The Home Office says it is looking to work with research partners to establish a stronger evidence base on the “impact and effectiveness of activity undertaken to disrupt terrorist and extremist activity and influence online”.

“We are also interested in understanding where disruption activity is most effective. For example, whether the removal of content from certain platforms or the removal of certain types of content are more effective than others. Also, the window of opportunity when a removal will have most impact before it is widely disseminated,” it added.

In particular, the Home Office is interested in the short and long-term impact disruption activity has on availability/accessability (eg, speed of reposting of content following takedown and ease of finding terrorist material), and reach and influence (eg, viewership, number of social media followers, impact of the message and narrative and effectiveness of content removal).

The contracts are expected to start in October.

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