Digital Terrorist and ‘Lone Actors’ (RAN paper)

RAN Small Scale Meeting Digital Terrorist and ‘Lone Actors’, online event 24 February 2021

Alexander Ritzmann und Anneleis Jansen

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How to find and identify digital terrorist “lone actors” before they commit violent acts was the lead question of this expert meeting. A special focus was put on the role and functions of social media platforms and gaming platforms. The term “lone-actor terrorism” has over time developed into a controversial and confusing concept.

While individuals might act alone on an operational level, usually they are or feel as being a part of a specific group or movement. Particularly in the digital age, so-called “lone actors” usually are and feel neither lonely nor alone. Some “lone-actor” attackers did not join any group since they thought they would be under government surveillance, but they felt part of a collective united by shared values, actions and enemies.

The trial of the Halle attacker (2020) and the Christchurch commission report (2020) indicated that neither intelligence services nor law enforcement nor the tech industry knew where to look for these digital lone actors or how to identify them online. Also, there was little awareness of the basic functionality (and abuse) of platforms, websites and other online services used by the perpetrators beyond Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

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