Myanmar security presence in IDP camps, Rakhine State, Myanmar, 31 July 2012. | Photo: Bernard Jaspers-Fajer EU/ECHO; EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid; Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Hate speech in the context of mass atrocity crimes: How social media platforms help and hinder international criminal investigations

The May 2020 arrest of Félicien Kabuga brought an end to a manhunt spanning 26 years and two continents. The capture of the elusive alleged financier of the infamous RTLM hate speech radio station shows the importance of documenting hate speech for court proceedings if and when fugitives are eventually arrested. Today, extremist hate and atrocity speech in the context of genocide and war crimes takes place and is spread online. However, social media platforms have been slow to respond to and document it, and to cooperate with international authorities in doing so.

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Zerstörte Gebäude in im Zentrum von Homs, Syrien | Photo: Chaoyue 超越 PAN 潘 | Free use

Krieg der Bilder – wie das syrische Regime den Bürgerkrieg im Fernsehen weiterführt

Bewaffnete Konflikte werden nicht nur durch Waffengewalt ausgetragen, sondern auch im gesellschaftlichen Diskurs. Diesen zu manipulieren und in die politisch erwünschte Richtung zu lenken, ist das Ziel von Propaganda. Film und Fernsehen spielen dabei eine zentrale Rolle, wie zahlreiche Beispiele aus dem Nationalsozialismus und anderen Kontexten zeigen. Im Gegensatz zu Dokumentationen und Nachrichten dienen Spielfilme und Serien in erster Linie der Unterhaltung. In Diktaturen erfüllen diese jedoch oft auch einen propagandistischen Zweck – starke Bilder, eine interessante Storyline und hochkarätige Schauspieler*innen treffen auf polarisierte Darstellungen eines Gegenstandes. Diese Mischung macht die Filme umso wirkmächtiger, wie ich im Folgenden anhand von einigen syrischen Produktionen zeigen möchte.

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The in-depth analysis of social media contributions within radicalisation dynamics of radical groups is a worthwile approach for radicalisation research. | Photo: Unsplash, Patrick Tomasso | Free use

Social Media as a Mirror of External Circumstances: Insights into the Perception of a Radical Group

Radicalisation processes take place in a field of tension between the actor and the outside world. External reactions and circumstances can have a supportive but also a rather negative and escalating effect on the dynamics of group development, depending on how they are perceived. Radical groups often react to circumstances in the outside world, incorporate them into their own discourse and provide their followers with a processed interpretation of them. This can be observed particularly well on social media. Within the scope of a thematic content analysis, we analysed how external circumstances were received within the community and what influence they had on the dynamics of the group Millatu Ibrahim.

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The PANDORA research group gained interesting insights into the nexus of online and offline radicalization processes.
The PANDORA research group gained interesting insights into the nexus of online and offline radicalization processes. | Photo: Peakpx | Free use

The Great Divide? The Online-Offline Nexus and Insights from Research on the Far-Right in Germany

Research financed in the framework of the BMBF’s public security programme is still predominantly occupied with two issues: “online-radicalization” and “international terrorism”. The emphasis on „international terrorism“ still leads to an exclusive focus on “Islamist terrorism” and completely ignores the discussion of and a stronger need for research on right-wing terrorism. The emphasis on “online-radicalization” on the other hand misses the importance of also looking at the offline dimension of any phenomena under investigation.

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For security authorities, automated monitoring of social media is gaining increasing importance.
For security authorities, automated monitoring of social media is gaining increasing importance. | Photo: Dollar Gill on Unsplash

Early Warning? Opportunities and Limitations of Automated Internet Monitoring

Policymakers have invested considerable effort and research funding to understand the role of the Internet in radicalisation processes and attack planning. This includes approaches to identify radicalisation or “weak signals” for terrorist intentions in online behaviour. As a result, security authorities have become increasingly interested in approaches to computer science including Artificial Intelligence. Nevertheless, what results have research efforts thus far yielded? Can computer science prove useful? And what are the possibilities and limitations of automated tools?

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To belong to a social group is attractive, esp. to young people
To belong to a social group is attractive, esp. to young people | Photo: markusspiske | Free use

Salafist Groups’ Use of Social Media and its Implications for Prevention

Researchers largely agree that radicalisation processes mostly include both real-world and virtual conditions. However, the interaction of both spheres has so far been understudied. Still, too little is known about how the two environments are mutually dependent and, accordingly, even less about how prevention and deradicalisation approaches can cover both spheres. In the previous article, Manjana Sold highlighted that while studying social media profiles, linkages to the real world are observable. This blog argues that this also occurs the other way around: Based on results from in-depth case studies, the article shows how radical Salafist groups in Germany use the benefits of social media to attract new members and facilitate the maintenance of the group. From these findings, possible starting points for prevention and deradicalisation work will be derived, which, if possible, cover both spheres of life.

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It is not easy to tell where offline ends and online begins
It is not easy to tell where offline ends and online begins | Photo: widenka | Free use

The Amalgamation of Virtuality and Reality in Radicalisation Processes

Virtuality has long since become an integral part of the world we live in today. It is thus not surprising that the virtual world is also used by those already radicalised and those who are in the midst of a radicalisation process. Accordingly, recent years have seen an increase in research that is particularly interested in the online component of radicalisation processes. Although the majority of researchers agree that there is no pure online radicalisation and that real-world contacts are always an important part of the process, research often continues to be one-sided. This posts calls for a change of focus by considering both spheres as equal components to the process and by examining their interactions. Findings from online case studies stemming from social media profiles of Salafist and right-wing individuals illustrate the amalgamation of online and offline radicalisation.

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Der deutsche Außenminister Heiko Maas
Der deutsche Außenminister Heiko Maas | Photo: eu2017ee | CC BY 2.0

Wieso Syrien, der Brexit und die USA gerade nur Randthemen sind

Eine außenpolitische Frage spaltet Berlin: Soll sich Deutschland an einem Luftangriff auf Anlagen der syrischen Armee beteiligen, falls diese bei der anstehenden Entscheidungsschlacht um Idlib erneut Giftgas einsetzt? Dabei scheint derzeit sonst für außenpolitische Debatten in Deutschland kaum Platz zu sein. Das zeigt auch eine Auswertung der öffentlich-rechtlichen Sommerinterviews mit Blick auf die Außen-, Verteidigungs- und Europapolitik.

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