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Participants in a webinar hosted by the Countering Violent Extremism Unit

Commonwealth works to build an internet safer from terrorism 

12 November 2021

The Commonwealth Secretariat Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Unit has held a series of intergovernmental webinars as part of its continued work on preventing terrorist use of the internet.

The webinars, entitled “Preventing Terrorist Use of the Internet: The Role of Commonwealth Governments in Africa”, were attended by more than 100 individuals from member countries across Africa, and were focused on impeding the internet’s use by terrorist and extremist groups against governments, companies, and other organisations in Africa.

Preventing terrorist use of the internet

The webinars took place on three occasions to cover the Southern, Eastern and Central, and West African regions. They were designed to engage government policymakers, regulators, security, and law enforcement across Commonwealth African countries to understand terrorist use of the internet and promote cooperation and information-sharing, to identify practical measures governments can take while upholding human rights and the rule of law.

Mark Albon, Head of Unit, said: "When government, civil society and industry better understand their role in preventing terrorist use of the internet, they are better able to facilitate meaningful collaboration to enable actions by industry and civil society too.

"These inter-governmental forums aim to facilitate discussions about this important issue at the sub-regional level, providing a very important opportunity to apply international learnings to local circumstances, and to build networks between practitioners that may be facing related issues.”

Meme Dominic Ngbwakung, who joined from Cameroon, said: "The workshop has given me an in-depth knowledge of how to play a leading role in stopping the spread of terrorist content in Cameroon.

"The social media and the internet in general are leading avenues where terrorists vehicle their propaganda, recruit and celebrate damages done in society.

"I have a deep feeling that an internet space free of terrorist content will greatly lead to peace"

Adele Barnard, a prosecutor from South Africa said: “It was a very interactive and thought-provoking workshop that provided me with valuable information and resources to use in the prosecution of terrorism cases.”

Lawrence Dieto, a project director from Nairobi, said: “I have really learnt a lot and will employ the knowledge gained to improve the work of my organization.”

The forums, held virtually over three days to accommodate all African member countries, incorporated sessions on:

  • Context and Understanding the Problem of Terrorist Use of the Internet 
  • Preventing Terrorist Use of the Internet and the Law
  • Removing Terrorist Propaganda 
  • Cooperating with Industry 
  • Encouraging Debate and Empowering Citizens
  • PTUI and human rights

The workshops were successful, with 98% of participants asserting that the workshop increased their capacity for action, whilst 78% thought that, as a result of the workshop, action would be taken to embed the learnings into their institutions. Consequently, the CVE unit is considering delivering the workshops to other regions within the Commonwealth.