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  • Writer's pictureSarah - Mom of a Former

Online Extremism - An Introduction

Today we live in a society in which many of us spend much of our lives online.

Paper invitations and birthday cards are being replaced with e-cards. Instead of a phone call, we send a DM. Many of us are replacing visiting loved ones for a cuppa and a chat with a Facetime call.

Some post the meals they make, some tag every restaurant and location that they go to.

We see new hairdos as they happen, people take us on holiday with them and share their experiences via live video’.

Social media keeps families and loved ones that live in different countries connected.

We have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips.

In one respect the world and everyone that we share it with has never been as more accessible as it is right now.

However, is it possible that sometimes accessibility and reality become confused.

Today I want to talk about people who become involved in Extremism through social media and whose activity is solely online!!!

I am going to provide you with two different scenarios and I want you to think about these and decide if one is worse than the other.

Scenario One - Jason 19

Jason has been described as a bit of a loner, he doesn't have any real-life friends, he never goes out and spends most of his time online. His relationship with his parents has broken down and he recently quit his labouring Job.

He talks to people worldwide throughout the night on various forums.

Jason recently got arrested for sharing prohibited material and inciting hate online.

Scenario Two - James 18

James has been described as an outgoing and popular man, he has numerous friends and is always going out somewhere. He is at University and he is exceeding his goals.

James was recently photographed at an ERW (Extreme Right-Wing) demonstration. Not only was he photographed, but he was photographed in what appeared to be, him being arrested by the police.

Does one of these stand out for you more than the other? Which one and why?

Do you believe that because James is in attendance at the demonstrations that you would consider him more active than Jason?

Would you think that because Jason is only active online that it's not that much of a concern?

What if I told you that Jason’s online activity and the things he shared incited a hate-based attack in another country by fellow ERW members. One in which many people got critically hurt.

What if I told you that James went along to the demonstration out of concern for his friend Sam who was attending. He was trying to talk sense into Sam and get him to leave. The police officer was simply walking past and heard James talking to Sam, he then stopped and told Sam he should listen to James, and that's when they were photographed.

So my question is simple.

Based on our preconceived ideas. Did you for one second believe that out of both of these real-life events, one that ended with such serious and life-changing consequences was the one that started with one electronic device, one bedroom and just one young individual?

Just think about that for a second, it’s terrifying isn’t it?

We are all afraid of hacking or scamming.

Why are we not afraid of something much bigger, something in which something more valuable than money is at risk of being lost and that is online Extremism.

Online Extremism is terrifying and poses a massive threat.

Not only can it destroy the lives of those and the families that they are targeting but it also destroys the lives and the families of those involved.

Young people especially dont always fully comprehend the dangers of what they do online, we have got so comfortable posting everything nowadays that it appears not much is off limits. People will happily post their location without considering the dangers, they will often speak to internet strangers without a second thought. Do you think that these people would do this in real life???? So why??

Cyberspace is like a fishbowl.

It’s a place where we have filters, we can edit our pictures, You can make your skin smoother and the sea bluer, we can edit out those we don't want and edit in those we do.

It's a place where you can be and live whatever life you choose.

You are the perfect Parent, You have the best kids, You have the perfect Job, You make the perfect meals, Have the perfect holidays, You have a great social life, You have the best skin, hair, clothes and make-up and you can get all the validation that we all seek.

For many, especially the younger generation,It's a place where we can blur our reality into something that we consider more appealing to others. Or we can live a life that is completely different from the mundane existence that we wish to escape.

So let's talk to various people about online radicalisation, from those involved to those targeted.

We need to speak to organisations within the criminal justice system about the repercussions of involvement and charges people could face.

We need to speak to the families of those involved and discuss how they have all been affected.

And we need to talk about what people can do to protect yourself and those whom you care about and what you can do if you have concerns about a friend or a loved one.

This is no longer an issue that can be ignored, sadly for all of us it is a growing concern but if we are aware and act now then we can and we will make a difference.

Sarah - Exit Family Support Officer.

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