Alexander Ritzmann, The Program on Extremism at George
Washington University. This paper, part of the Legal Perspectives on Tech Series, was commissioned in
conjunction with the Congressional Counterterrorism Caucus.
Over the course of 2015 and 2016, Germany had accepted around one million refugees, most from the Middle East. A right-wing anti-migrant backlash ensued, leading to a dramatic increase of crimes often committed by Germans who had no prior affiliation with extremist right-wing groups. On social media, hate speech proliferated, targeting both refugees and government officials who were deemed responsible for Germany’s open immigration policy. At the same time, the online propaganda and recruitment efforts of the so called “Islamic State” (IS) were at their peak and several IS-claimed terrorist attacks were committed within the European Union and Germany.
In 2016 and 2017, the German federal government initiated an investigation into online activities that violated Article 130 (incitement to hatred and Holocaust denial) and Article 86a (use of symbols from unconstitutional organizations) of the penal code, and violations against the Youth Protection Act. The organization mandated with the investigation reported 200 pieces of content per tested social media company (SMC).
Facebook removed 39%, YouTube 90% and Twitter 1%. Looking solely at content
removed within 24 hours of being flagged, the rates fell to 31% for Facebook, 82% for YouTube and 0% for Twitter.
Realizing that social media failed their own community standards and did not police their networks effectively in respect to illegal activities, Germany’s Network Enforcement Act, or NetzDG law, was introduced on May 16, 2017 and passed several weeks later. The short period for deliberation in the Bundestag was criticized heavily.
Federal elections were held in September that year so it appeared that for the governing coalition of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD), speed was more relevant than deliberation. The law was passed virtually unanimously among the CDU and SPD. The Free Democrats (FDP) and the party “The Left” voted against, the Greens abstained.
„GIZ cannot not work on PVE“ – so die Ansicht von Alexander Ritzmann, Autor der Studie „Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) – Methods, Approaches and Potential for GIZ Governance Interventions in the Middle East and North Africa” (link). Die Studie wurde vom GIZ-Fachverbund Governance in der MENA-Region (Go-MENA) in Auftrag gegeben. Der Fachverbund ging der Frage nach, welche Rolle die GIZ, und insbesondere ihre Governance-Programme, im Bereich Extremismusprävention spielen können, denn Terrorismus und gewaltsamer Extremismus bedrohen die Sicherheit und Stabilität vieler Partnerländer.
Johannes Baldauf, Julia Ebner und Jakob Guhl (Hrsg.)
Vorwort von Prof. Dr. Peter Neumann
Mit Beiträgen von
Alexander Ritzmann (Seite 11)
Prof. Dr. Christian Montag
Dr. Matthias Quent
Senior Policy Advisor. European Foundation for Democracy. Co-chair of the European Commission’s Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) Communication and Narratives (C&N) Working Group
The 8th Euromed Survey conducted by the European Institute of the Mediterranean touches upon a number of important and complex issues related to violent extremism in the EuroMediterranean region, including the question of the context and drivers through which violent extremism can prosper. Echoing some of the results, this article looks into propaganda as a tool of extremist ideologies and how to counter it.
What is Propaganda?
Propaganda, as a tool of extremist ideologies, aims to generate and promote a world view that reduces the complexity of life to a simple black and white picture. This structured attempt to reform the cognitive (and emotional) perceptions of a target audience to initiate an action in the interest of the propagandist has probably been a part of every political or religious conflict (Jowett, 2012).
In 1622, when the Catholic Church professionalised its missionary work to counter the progress of the Protestants, the body responsible for this important endeavour was called “Sacra Congregatio de propaganda fide”, which gave the name to what since then has been called propaganda. Over the conflict of what true Christianity is, Catholics regarded propaganda as something positive, while Protestants saw it as a tool of the enemy (Bussmer, 2013).
Propaganda, in the form of recruitment messaging, generally follows the pattern of diagnosis (what is wrong), prognosis (what needs to be done) and rationale (who should do it and why) (Wilson, 1973). The self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS/Daesh), for example, follows the same principle: diagnosis (Islam/Sunni Muslims are under attack), prognosis (fight/create the Caliphate) and rationale (help however you can).
The IS then uses sub-narratives for every target group they want to reach (Neumann, 2015). Adventure-seeking young men were promised a future as heroes who are fighting for a just cause and who would be rewarded, amongst other things, with wives and sex slaves. Medical doctors and engineers were lured in by the call to helping fellow Sunni Muslims in need and to being part of the creation of the perfect Islamic utopian society, the Caliphate. Young women were promised an important role by becoming the wives of the “lions of the Caliphate” and securing its future by raising their “cubs” (Winter, 2015).
How Does Propaganda Work?
Extremist propaganda often has clear-cut messages that promise clarity, relevance and meaning in addition to emotional and social benefits, such as belonging to a new family or brotherhood/sisterhood. For propaganda to increase its chances of success, it needs to be close to an already existing (perceived) truth of the targeted audience. 180-degree conversions happen but very rarely.Weiterlesen »
Webinar-Aufzeichnung (Link zum Video)
Referent/innen: Alexander Ritzmann und Julia Ebner
„Inhalt: Soziale Medien sind heute ein fester Bestandteil des Lebens von vielen Menschen. Informationen sind kein Gut von Zeitungen, Radio und Fernsehen mehr. Sie fließen über Facebook, werden über Twitter und WhatsApp rasend schnell verbreitet und über Youtube mit bewegten Bildern unterlegt – jeder hat von fast überall Zugriff und kann selbst Nachrichten verbreiten. Auch Extremisten nutzen soziale Medien, um für sich zu werben und junge Menschen zu radikalisieren. Welche Rolle Soziale Medien bei der Radikalisierung spielen und wie sie auch von Kommunen für die Prävention von Extremismus genutzt werden können beleuchten Alexander Ritzmann (European Foundation for Democracy, Co-Vorsitzender der RAN working group on communication and narratives) und Julia Ebner (Institute for Strategic Dialogue).
Das Deutsch-Europäische Forum für urbane Sicherheit (DEFUS) und das Institut für angewandte Präventionsforschung des Deutschen Präventionstages (dpt-i) bieten gemeinsam eine Webinarreihe an, die die unterschiedlichen Facetten des Themenkomplexes Extremismus und Radikalisierung beleuchten.“