Video games such as Minecraft have started to become the target of extremist actors. | Photo: Flickr, Lego Photo mureut | CC BY-ND 2.0

Let’s play prevention: Can P/CVE turn the tables on extremists’ use of gamification?

In the wake of the attacks in Christchurch, El Paso and Halle, the so-called ‘gamification of terror’ has made headlines and sparked academic interest in the potential role of gamification in radicalisation processes. Most recently, the Radicalization Awareness Network (RAN) has discussed both videogames and gamification as potential facilitating factors of radicalisation in the EU. This blog article is based on the new RAN Paper “The Gamification of Violent Extremism & Lessons for P/CVE”.


Women in Gilgit-Baltistan, interior Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and rural Punjab - areas that have been left relatively excluded from the dars' (cyber) influence and emphasis on the Arab-styled hijab - still wear ensembles reflecting local ethnic roots that predate the advent of Islam and the creation of Pakistan. | Photo: © Wasiasuhail via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Dars and Madrassas: Remnants of a Lost Pedagogy that has advanced onto the Cyber Realm

Madrassas (school-like religious seminaries, mostly for young boys who train to become Islamic theologians) and dars (female-only institutional and/or home-based study circles and diploma courses) constitute an informal and unregulated religious education space in Pakistan. Dars, often taught by self-declared authorities on religion, are increasingly delivered online and could contribute to radicalisation; until now, there is no coherent strategy in Pakistan that takes the online element sufficiently into account. Tackling online radicalisation would require the Pakistani state to reflect deeply on its scholastic apparatus, the shortcomings of which often pave the way for digital Islam to serve as the alternative for a state-approved religious education.


Why do pro-democracy narratives struggle with responding to the utopian visions propagated by extremist actors? | Photo: Unsplash, Paweł Czerwiński | Free use

Missing an epic story: Why we are struggling to counter extremists’ utopian narratives

Contrary to popular opinion, extremist communication is not simply based on hatred and calls for violence. While beheading videos or livestreamed shootings may generate attention, displays of violence alone are an insufficient basis for an extremist ideology and claims of legitimacy. Utopian narratives – visions for the perfect society – are an indispensable element of propaganda efforts. Without detailing what one is fighting for, an essential part would be missing from the web of extremist ideological communication. While the last years have seen an increase in narrative campaigns designed to delegitimize extremist ideologies and provide alternative worldviews, pro-democracy narratives struggle with responding to the utopian visions propagated by extremist actors.


Radikalisierung und Terrorismus – in Buchform unter den Weihnachtsbaum? | Photo: Unsplash, Sherise. | Free use

Radikalisierung und Terrorismus – in Buchform unter den Weihnachtsbaum?

Die Themen Extremismus, Radikalisierung, Terrorismus und Terrorismusbekämpfung sind aus der gesellschaftlichen Debatte in Deutschland nicht mehr wegzudenken. Diese findet oftmals in einem Modus der Aufgeregtheit statt, sodass wichtige wissenschaftliche Erkenntnisse, Differenzierungen und Querverbindungen sowie kritische Blickwinkel auf diese Phänomene nicht immer angemessen berücksichtigt werden. Die Forschungsgruppen Radikalisierung und Terrorismus stellen deshalb eine kleine Liste von lesenswerten Werken im Feld zusammen. Und während es zunächst so scheinen mag, als wären die Themen wenig für die besinnliche Zeit geeignet, so sprechen sie doch große Herausforderungen gesellschaftlichen Wandels zugänglich an – und tragen somit zu besser informierten Debatten bei: ein Geschenk für alle. Wir wünschen eine entspannte Zeit mit spannenden Büchern!


French president Emmanuel Macron presents a five-point plan to address Islamist radicalization. | Photo: picture alliance/dpa/MAXPP

Macron’s plan for fighting Islamist radicalization – and what Germany and other European countries should and shouldn’t learn from it

On October 2nd French president Macron presented a five-point plan to address Islamist radicalization. The long awaited speech sparked debates in France and beyond. In Germany, some called it “historic” and a “wake-up call”, demanding a similar set of initiatives and central speech for the German debate. This is problematic for two reasons: first, while many measures in Macron’s plan are promising, others and the overall framing of the speech can prove counterproductive in terms of stigmatization and securitization. Second, the French centralist approach cannot and should not be transferred to the German federal and civil society-based system of preventing extremism.


Extremists use social media to spread hateful narratives and propaganda - state actors, NGOs, and young activists are trying to fight this by telling counter-narratives. But how effective is this? | Photo: PRIF

Counter-narratives – curse or blessing?

Taking stock of the increased spread of extremist narratives – especially in social media – the search for appropriate counter-measures intensifies. Consequently, the formulation and dissemination of so-called counter-narratives is often discussed as one possible approach to weaken extremist influence. While there are good reasons in favor of counter-narratives, they also come with risks and uncertainties. This article outlines essential pros and cons for their use in social media and provides insights into the current state of research on the effects of counter-narratives. Finally, it makes a proposal for a balanced approach: Counter-narratives may not be the only cure for extremism, but can serve as an effective tool for prevention and de-radicalization.


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.


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.


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?


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.