Sajda Mughal OBE of JAN Trust provides an insight into how social media and other platforms are being used to radicalise young people and gives some key tips on what parents can do to protect their children from this online threat.
The UK Government has identified extremism as ‘one of the greatest threats we [the UK] face’, specifically, Far-Right and Islamic extremism. Both Far-Right and Islamic extremist groups are increasingly using the Internet to radicalise and recruit young people.
This should come as no surprise as according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics, the age group 16-24 ranks second in daily computer use. Young people today have easier access to the Internet through various devices making them vulnerable to harm from Islamic and Far-Right extremist groups.
Since the start of the conflict in Syria, in 2011, 5,000 foreign fighters have travelled from Western Europe to fight in Syria and Iraq. 760 of these have been from the UK. This figure includes girls as young as 15 who have left to marry ISIS fighters. The BBC has reported that almost half of those who travelled from the UK have since returned posing a long-term threat to the UK, the Met Assistant Commissioner said last year.
The Internet has played a significant role in the radicalisation and recruitment of foreign fighters and continues to do so.
Research conducted by Oxford University in 2015 confirms the importance of social networks as a tool used by ISIS to recruit young people. Social networking is the main activity young people aged 16-24 use the internet for, something which extremist groups are well aware of. This is why they are using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to draw young people to their cause.
A report published by Birmingham City University which analysed tweets between January 2013 and April 2014 revealed the use of Twitter to create hostility and incite violence. One of the tweets found by researchers read ‘… I HATE PAKIS, I HATE MUSLIMS. KILL THEM ALL!” Far-Right groups are not only targeting Muslims but also LGBT and Jewish communities via social media.
Far-Right extremist groups are using the Internet to recruit ‘a new younger generation of members’. It is also facilitating the ability of Far-Right groups to organise and promote themselves. The numbers speak for themselves as Far-Right groups such as Pegida’s Facebook page has more than 200,000 likes whereas Britain First has a whopping two million likes, more than the likes on the Facebook pages of the Labour and Conservative parties combined. Far-Rights groups have gained incredible popularity online with the Internet helping them to mobilise support and recruit new members.
There is a wealth of Far-Right and Islamic extremist material available online including; articles, images, videos encouraging hate or violence, posts on social media and, websites created or hosted by terrorist organisations. There are also terrorist training materials and videos glorifying war and violence that play on the theme of popular video games such as ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’. These use highly emotive language and images created to play on the issues young people are struggling with such as identity, faith and belonging.
We, JAN Trust, are at the forefront of tackling this issue and have been conducting research on the issues of Internet extremism since 2006. We use this research to develop our unique Web Guardians© programme.
The programme provides mothers and carers with the essential skills to tackle the issue so that they can protect their children. The organisation also delivers ‘Safeguarding from Extremism’ workshops to students, parents and staff across the UK focusing on the threat of online Far-Right and Islamic extremism.
Our work shows that parents and carers are essential to tackling online radicalisation and extremism.
If you’d like to learn more about online radicalisation and how you can protect your child, please visit