Information and communications technologies (ICT)

Terrorists and terrorist groups exploit the Internet and social media not only to commit terrorist acts, but also to facilitate a wide range of terrorist activities, including incitement, radicalization, recruitment, training, planning, collection of information, communications, preparation, and financing.

In its work to address the abuse of information and communications technologies (ICT) by terrorists and terrorist groups, the Counter-Terrorism Committee is guided by several Security Council resolutions.

Security Council resolution 1373 (2001) calls on all Member States to find ways to intensify and accelerate the exchange of operational information concerning the use of ICT by terrorist groups and to suppress terrorist recruitment.

Security Council resolution 1624 (2005) calls for necessary and appropriate measures in accordance with Member States’ obligations under international law to prohibit by law incitement to commit a terrorist act and prevent such conduct. The resolution also recognizes the importance, in an increasingly globalized world, of cooperative action by Member States aimed at preventing terrorists from exploiting sophisticated technology, communications, and resources to incite support for criminal acts.

Security Council resolution 2129 (2013) directs the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) to continue to address the use of ICT in terrorist activities, in consultation with Member States, international, regional, and subregional organizations, the private sector, and civil society, and to advise the Committee on further approaches.

Security Council resolution 2178 (2014), on foreign terrorist fighters, calls on Member States to act cooperatively when taking national measures to prevent terrorists from exploiting technology, communications, and resources to incite support for terrorist acts. In doing so, States should respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and ensure compliance with their obligations under international law.

The related work of CTED focuses on four pillars: (i) mainstreaming ICT in its assessment of Member States’ implementation of resolutions 1373 (2001), 1624 (2005), and 2178 (2014); (ii) the promotion of industry self-regulation; (iii) strengthening mutual legal assistance regarding digital content; and (iv) promoting counter-messaging techniques, including online.

In May 2016, at an open briefing of the Security Council on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, chaired by Egypt’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Council adopted a presidential statement (S/PRST/2016/6) requesting the Counter-Terrorism Committee to submit a proposal to the Council, by 30 April 2017, for a “comprehensive international framework” to effectively counter, in compliance with international law, the ways that ISIL (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities use their narratives to encourage, motivate, and recruit others to commit terrorist acts.

Subsequently, Microsoft informed the Security Council that it had amended its terms of use to specifically prohibit the posting of terrorist content by, or in support of, organizations included on the Consolidated United Nations Security Council Sanctions List.

The Committee has organized two special meetings on this theme – a December 2015 meeting on “Preventing terrorists from exploiting the Internet and social media to recruit terrorists and incite terrorist acts, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms,” and another in December 2016 on “Preventing the exploitation of ICT for terrorist purposes, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

CTED has organized a number of events on countering terrorism through the use of ICT, including a workshop organized in conjunction with New York University’s School of Professional Studies/Center for Global Affairs.

CTED is also engaged in two further initiatives in this area. The first, conducted together with the Swiss Foundation ICT4Peace, consists in working with the private sector and civil society to further our understanding of industry responses to the use of new technology for terrorist purposes and identify good practices. At the Committee’s December 2016 special meeting, ICT4Peace and CTED presented an initial report on a joint project on “Private Sector Engagement in Responding to the Use of the Internet and ICT for Terrorist Purposes: Strengthening Dialogue and Building Trust.” The second initiative, conducted together with the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), focuses on strengthening international cooperation among national prosecutors engaged in counter-terrorism issues, notably by enhancing their capacity to obtain evidence in a timely manner.

CTED will continue to mainstream ICT into its current and future activities, notably those relating to terrorism financing, bringing terrorists to justice, regional and international cooperation, and the protection of critical infrastructures, within the framework of its efforts to assist the Committee to monitor the implementation of the relevant Council resolutions.

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