Exploring Extremism Online and its Effects Offline

Benedict Wilkinson – King’s College London

Exploring online extremism and its effects offline by looking at recruitment tools, a survey of intervention tools to combat radicalization, and the impact on free speech and privacy.

Online extremism is a hugely complex and dynamic phenomenon. The online space appeals to extremists in different ways to offline spaces. The online environment encourages reactive and instinctive behaviours, often driven by emotion and a deeply ingrained sense of grievance against groups of people, governments, and/or corporations. The distinction between how online extremism is manifested and how offline extremism is manifested, and the relationship between the two is often difficult to discern. However, it is clear that real-world harms are being catalysed, if not caused, by online behaviours at what seems to be an accelerating rate.

This project will explore the phenomenon of extremism online. We will survey the tools and mechanisms used to recruit extremists online, as well as the tools for combatting radicalization online. Because extremism online is more reactive and more difficult to distinguish from legitimate behaviour, many of the tools for countering online extremism have implications for privacy and freedom of speech.