Working Group on Countering the Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes
United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy:
Section II, paragraph 12: “To work with the United Nations with due regard to confidentiality, respecting human rights and in compliance with other obligations under international law, to explore ways and means to:
(a) Coordinate efforts at the international and regional levels to counter terrorism in all its forms and manifestations on the Internet;
(b) Use the Internet as a tool for countering the spread of terrorism, while recognizing that States may require assistance in this regard.”
Photo © Shutterstock Images
The Working Group aims to identify and bring together stakeholders and partners on the issue of abuse of the Internet for terrorist purposes, including through radicalization, recruitment, training, operational planning, fundraising and other means. In conjunction with Member States, the Working Group aims to explore ways in which terrorists use the Internet, quantify the threat that this poses and examine options for addressing it at national, regional and global levels, including what role the United Nations might play, without compromising human rights, fundamental values and the open nature of the Internet itself.
As a first step, the Working Group conducted a mapping exercise of relevant laws, conventions, resources and initiatives. The Working Group has been able to assemble a substantial amount of data on existing measures for countering use of the Internet for terrorist purposes based on responses to a letter of enquiry sent to Member States of the United Nations asking for information on key areas relevant to the remit of the Working Group, interviews and correspondence with key figures in regional and international organizations, Internet regulatory bodies, industry, civil society and academia, as well as from publicly available information.
The Working Group completed the mapping exercise by organizing a stakeholders’ meeting in November 2008, bringing the Working Group together with a select number of policy-makers, cyber-security professionals, industry representatives, terrorism experts, law enforcement and civil society representatives. Participants held a wide-ranging discussion on the nature of the threat represented by use of the Internet for terrorist purposes, and the most appropriate means for dealing with it. This discussion focused on creating common understanding among sectors which may have divergent ideas on countering use of the Internet for terrorist purposes, with the ultimate aim of determining what if any international action might be appropriate.
In February 2009 the Working Group produced a report analyzing information provided by Member States and reflecting the conclusions of the stakeholders’ event. It provides a picture of the current nature of the threat and records national, regional and international initiatives to counter it. It offers preliminary recommendations for a way forward and examines the potential for a United Nations role.
Building on the outcomes of its initial report, the Working Group in 2010 focused on legal and technical challenges surrounding the efforts to counter the terrorist use of the Internet. Two expert meetings were held on these issues, the first hosted by the German Foreign Ministry and the second in collaboration with Microsoft. Both meetings were attended by Member States, civil society and the private sector. In 2011, the Working Group started focusing its activities on using the Internet to counter the appeal of terrorism, specifically by analyzing the role of counter-narratives and effective messengers who can deliver these narratives. Focusing on these issues, CTITF, together with Naif University and the Center on Global Counter-Terrorism Cooperation, brought together senior representatives from Member States, private sector analysts, and civil society experts at an international conference hosted in Riyadh, Saudi-Arabia in January 2011. The reports from the first two project-phases of the CTITF Working Group have been published in a compendium containing an overview of the challenges as well as potential best practices or recommendations in the legal and technical areas. A report on counter-narratives was published online in late 2011.
In addition, Working Group experts are involved in a number of ongoing policy-discussions with regards to "countering terrorist use of the internet" in the context of broader cyber-security efforts undertaken by Member States, academia, and the private sector. Examples of this engagement are CTITF participation in ongoing expert talks organized by Moscow State University, the OSCE's cyber-security program, the UNODC-organized Open-ended Intergovernmental Expert Group on Cybercrime and others.
- CTITF Office (lead)
- 1267 Monitoring Team
- Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED)
- Department of Public Information (DPI)
- International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL)
- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
- Special Rapporteur on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights While Countering Terrorism
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
- United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI)
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
- International Telecommunication Union (ITU)