SPECIAL EVENT ON COUNTERING TERRORISM THROUGH THE USE OF NEW COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES
The Counter-Terrorism Committee held a special event at UN Headquarters on 24 May 2013 to explore with Member States the link between new communications and information technologies and terrorism.
Society at large has benefitted from the development of new technologies, but so have criminal organizations. "As we have seen on all too many occasions over recent years, terrorist groups will not hesitate to exploit such technologies to incite, prepare and perpetrate acts of violence," said Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki, Permanent Representative of Morocco and Chair of the Committee.
"It is not sufficient to react," said Ambassador Loulichki. "Member States must anticipate and stay ahead of new terrorist methods."
One issue of concern discussed during the meeting is the use of mobile telephones to communicate and make financial transactions that could result in terrorist acts. Speakers from civil society, the private sector and international organizations presented ways to track calls and the transfer of funds executed through mobile phones. Technology also allows law enforcement to establish the user's location.
Participants agreed that countering such a growing threat requires a well-coordinated, multi-dimensional and balanced approach. Mobile banking has the potential to further promote social inclusion and technologies are mostly used for legitimate purposes, so neither should be unduly restricted. In addition, authorities should ensure human rights are respected when using mobile telephone technology for surveillance and monitoring purposes.
These obligations apply to all counter-terrorism measures. "While there is a need for an effective and dynamic operational approach to prevent and suppress terrorism, there is the same need to strictly observe the principle of legality, respect for human rights and due process," said Mr. Weixiong Chen, CTED's Deputy Executive Director.
X-rays, body scanners, iris or digit scans, security cameras, and machine readable travel documents are some of the tools authorities have at hand to regulate the movement of persons at border checkpoints. Besides verifying the identity of passengers, new technologies are designed to detect explosives and other hazardous or prohibited substances.
Participants stressed the importance of ensuring any information collected through these technologies is reliable, stored securely and used effectively in order to prevent misuse, errors and privacy violations. Increased security and reliance on technology, moreover, should not have an impact on the effective processing of border traffic.
Although each Member State is responsible for securing its border, cooperation with other countries is a cornerstone of effective counter-terrorism strategies. Participants indicated that legal frameworks should be developed or strengthened to this end. Considering that the private sector drives innovation, they felt it is vital to incorporate the sector's views, as well as those from other relevant actors.
Terrorism has evolved to incorporate the Internet. Criminal organizations build websites, post videos and inspirational magazines online, are active in chat rooms and have social media accounts. Not only do they communicate through these channels with members of their organization, but they attempt to recruit new ones. They provide training material and raise funds. Often, criminals promote violent extremism and incite people to commit terrorist acts.
Speakers at the special event said that artificial intelligence and language-analysis techniques can be used to monitor the activities of terrorist organizations on the Internet and improve the identification of terrorists on social networks and online forums. The main goal is to disrupt plans and prevent terrorism.
As the Chair of the Committee said in his summary, "The Internet presents a wide variety of means and opportunities to prevent, detect and deter acts of terrorism and to bring terrorists to justice through intelligence gathering, evidence-collection, and the introduction of measures to counter the terrorist narrative."
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