Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism at Facebook: Technology, Expertise and Partnerships

Published in: Tackling Insurgent Ideologies in a Pandemic World, Observer Research Foundation & Global Policy Journal (August 2020), Saltman – Chapter 14 (pages 80 – 85). Full publication accessible here: https://bit.ly/30o6dfu

At Facebook, we rely on a combination of technology, people and partnerships with experts to help keep our platforms safe. Even as governments, companies and non-profits have battled terrorist propaganda online, we’ve faced a complex question over the best way to tackle a global challenge that can proliferate in different ways, across different parts of the web.

Often analysts and observers ask us at Facebook why, with our vast databases and advanced technology, we can’t just block nefarious activity using technology alone. The truth is that we also need people to do this work. And to be truly effective in stopping the spread of terrorist content across the entire internet, we need to join forces with others. Ultimately this is about finding the right balance between technology, human expertise and partnerships. technology helps us manage the scale and speed of online content. Human expertise is needed for nuanced understanding of how terrorism and violent extremism manifests around the world and track adversarial shifts. Partnerships allow us to see beyond trends on our own platform, better understand the interplay between online and offline, and build programmes with credible civil society organisations to support counterspeech at scale. Continue reading

Facebook Ups Fight Against Terrorists, Hate-Mongers: Dr. Erin Saltman tells ‘Post’ how 7,500 reviewers deal with questionable comments from 2 billion users

Originally Published by Jerusalem Post 4 April 2018. By Yonah Jeremy Bob with original linked here.

These are not easy times at Facebook as it faces criticism over the Cambridge Analytica saga and about Russia using the social-media giant to sway public opinion during the 2016 US elections. But there is at least one area where Facebook had faced heavy criticism in the past – from Israel and much of the organized Jewish community – where it seems to have turned the tide.

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Newsweek Podcast Ep. 2: Hunting Lone Wolves

Episode two of Newsweek’s Foreign Service podcast asks how governments can prevent erratic and unpredictable attacks by so-called “lone wolf” terrorists. Published 21 July 2016. Link to Newsweek Foreign Service Podcast here

Gavin Long, the man who killed three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Sunday, had past links with radical groups. But in politically charged Youtube videos infused with violent rhetoric, he insisted he acted alone. In Nice, where Mohamed Bouhlel killed at least 64 people and wounded dozens more with a truck, the Islamic State Militant Group (ISIS) took credit for the carnage. But Bouhlel’s links with the group are unclear, and likely indirect.

So how do you prepare for attacks that come without warning or large-scale planning? Do we now live in a world where any angry, isolated person who comes across the right messages can become a terrorist? Or, with the right knowledge, can governments and security services separate genuine dangers from false alarms, and turn those most at risk of perpetrating appalling crimes back from the brink?

This episode discusses the question from our London office with Hillary Hurd, who has studied religious-inspired violence and strategies for post-conflict rehabilitation, and Erin Marie Saltman, a senior researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. Link to podcast: https://soundcloud.com/newsweek-foreign-service/episode-two-hunting-lone-wolves

Policy Report: Guidance for International Youth Engagement in PVE and CVE

REPORT: Saltman, E. and Kirt, J. (June 2016) Guidance for International Youth Engagement in PVE and CVE: Youth Responses to Resolution 2250 and the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, (London: Institute for Strategic Dialogue).

Over the last several months, ISD’s Youth Civil Activism Network (YouthCAN) has made a concerted effort to reach out to young activists and garner important feedback regarding the UN Plan of Action (PoA) and Resolution 2250 in relation to specific national and regional contexts. The YouthCAN UN PVE Survey was distributed to young activists between April – June 2016 and contained 25 questions addressing key elements of the UN PoA and Resolution 2250. The survey was distributed online to the YouthCAN network, as well as a range of international youth networks.

This report was launched at a United Nations side event 1 July 2016 and presents the findings from the YouthCAN UN PVE Survey in order to bridge the gap between international policymakers and the expressed needs and concerns of young activists. The full policy report can be found here

Youth Innovation Labs: A Model for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism

PUBLICATION: Saltman E., Dow M. and Bjornsgaard K. (July 2016), Youth Innovation Labs: A Model for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism, (London: Institute for Strategic Dialogue).

The following publication discusses the development, implementation and evaluation of Youth Innovation Labs. Labs are immersive, activist-led events that create a secure environment to facilitate capacity-building while giving participants the contacts, tools and resources needed to develop strategic campaigns for preventing and countering violent extremism. The purpose of this publication is to share the methodology and structure thatYouthCAN has developed, as well as the best-practices and outcomes from YouthCAN’s work with young activists and creatives.

The full publication can be found here.

Book Chapter: Female Radicalization to ISIS and the Role of Women in CVE

Saltman, E. and Frennett, R. (2016) ‘Female Radicalization to ISIS and the Role of Women in CVE’, in Chowdury Fink et. al. (eds.), A Man’s World? Exploring the Roles of Women in Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, (Abu Dhabi and New York: Hedayah and GCCS), pp. 142 – 163.

Abstract: Women have played significant roles in a number of contemporary terrorist organizations. A range of far-right, far-left and Islamist extremist organizations have utilized female forces for a variety of activities including logistics, recruitment, political safeguarding, operational leadership, suicide bombing and combat. The recent surge in female recruitment to groups such as the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has brought this long lasting phenomenon into sharp focus. This trend is unfortunately often paired with misperceptions around the role of women within these violent networks and engendered responses to the radicalization of women. A more nuanced understanding of the roles women play in preventing and countering violent extremism (PVE and CVE) is therefore critical. This chapter explores the crucial roles that women play in countering the violent extremist narrative, by reaching a wider audience of those “at risk” of radicalization and bringing much-needed innovation into the CVE sector. Addressing gender dynamics in CVE work is significant as we see an increasing number of women being radicalized and recruited into terrorist networks like ISIS from all over the world.

Full publication available here: http://www.hedayah.ae/pdf/a-man-s-world-1.pdf

Written Evidence to the Home Affairs Committee – Counter Extremism Inquiry

Written evidence submitted by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue

Published 2 February 2016. Original document can be found via the UK Parliament Website here

The following written evidence is submitted to the Home Affairs Committee adding to the Countering Extremism Inquiry. As such, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) would like to use its research and experience working to counter violent extremism to highlight evidence and findings relevant to this inquiry. In particular, ISD would like to touch upon the topic of preventing violent extremism (section 2), inter-sector relations in CVE (section 3), and the need for credible, targeted counter-narratives (section 4).

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The Need to Embrace Nuance and Diversity in the Fight Against Violent Extremism

Originally published by Reform Magazine February 2016. Original link here to abbreviated online version. Full version only available to subscribers (or on this blog).

For the last two years the international community has been transfixed on the rise of the terrorist group Daesh (also known as Islamic State, ISIS and ISIL). For Western communities there has been a particular focus on the seemingly shocking phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters and female migrants. It is estimated that over 5,000 Western European citizens have traveled hundreds of miles to join what we know to be a violent and brutal terrorist group. Yet despite the intense media focus and public discourse around this trend, there remain many misleading headlines and misunderstandings about processes of radicalisation and prevention. Continue reading

‘Till Martyrdom Do Us Part’ – Gender and the ISIS Phenomenon

By Erin Marie Saltman and Melanie Smith

The following is the introduction to the latest Women and Extremism report from ISD. A link to the full report can be found here. Launched 28 May 2015

Although often assumed to be passive agents, women have played significant roles in a number of contemporary terrorist organizations. Violent extremist groups across the political and ideological spectrum have utilised female forces for a range of activities including logistics, recruitment, political safeguarding, operations, suicide bombing and combat. However, the recent unprecedented surge in female recruits to the terrorist organization Islamic State (ISIS) has brought this phenomenon into sharp focus. For many there remain misperceptions and misunderstandings concerning the role women play within these violent networks, often paired with engendered responses to the radicalisation of women. By analysing how terrorist organisations choose to utilise women, we are able to better understand the decision-making processes of terrorists and the inner-workings of the organization itself. Continue reading

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue on embracing the ‘softer side’ of counter-terrorism

By Erin Marie Saltman and Jake Barker

Originally Published by New World UNA-UK 24 February 2015. Original linked here.

The need for cohesive and effective counter-terrorism policy among UN member states is as crucial as ever. Transnational terrorist organisations, like Islamic State (IS), are territorially expanding in the Middle East, while the foreign fighter phenomenon is affecting a number of countries. With the continuation of this crisis, international gaps within counter-terrorism strategies have shown themselves. There is scope for improvement in UN strategies in terms of increasing its soft power capabilities through enhancing the infrastructure around counter-extremism. Continue reading