By Teri Schultz,


Full article can be found here.

„A member of the RAN’s counter-narrative working group, Alexander Ritzmann of the European Foundation for Democracy, also emphasises the issue of credibility and trust, which he says is as important as the content of the message being conveyed.

Ritzmann says for those trying to prevent radicalisation, having a former member of the organisation deliver that information is infinitely more effective than hoping an official can make policy sound exciting or relevant to a youth who’s already been conditioned to reject perspectives of the state. Ritzmann encourages seeking out this kind of intermediary to make any alternate narrative palatable to disaffected youngsters.

“So, someone who says ‘I went to Syria, it’s not like they say [it is]- they’re lying to you, they’re killing Muslims, it’s a corrupt organisation. It’s not a big adventure where you can be a hero defending your faith,’” Ritzmann suggests.

“And this is what some of the defectors are saying. And this is then somewhat a credible messenger, but the government is not credible at all if you look at the target group of vulnerable youth.”

That said, the internet has been traditionally the best recruiting tool radical groups have had, an inexpensive way to reach virtually every teen and to exploit any potential weakness, easily tracked due to careless sharing of personal information on social media. Avramopoulos calls it the “most important battleground” in the counter-radicalisation fight, where youth find the “poison” of online extremism.

The radical recruiters can also often find examples of, for example, Islamophobia to help convince a target youth that his or her community is being discriminated against. The European Commission has also worked to get large internet service providers to help get rid of hate speech of all kinds.

Facebook and Twitter are among those who recently signed a voluntary pledge to take down such remarks within 24 hours of being notified of them. A new element of this practice will see internet providers create a database of this deleted “terrorist content” for law enforcement to use for research and evidence.

But experts like Alexander Ritzmann warn that to believe the internet is the main  source of radicalisation would be a mistake. Ritzmann says personal connections  are still the main driver, that youth are being radicalised in living rooms more than chat rooms.“


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