The Commonwealth Secretariat brought together a host of tech policy experts for a series of workshops on preventing terrorist use of the Internet in Asia and the Pacific.
An array of speakers from the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Unit, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, Tech Against Terrorism, the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs and Meta came together for three virtual webinars between 7-10 November.
The webinars shared detailed research about how violent extremist and terrorist organisations in Asia and the Pacific are using the internet, including the different uses for sharing content on encrypted platforms and social media platforms.
Over 110 participants explored the existing strategies that governments and tech companies are using to make it harder for terrorists to recruit online (such as user-bans, designated terrorist organisations and content removal protocols), and considered the need for new laws that address gaps in the current efforts, as well as the importance of human rights and the rule of law in shaping effective counter-terrorism policies.
Anna Sherburn, Deputy Head of CVE, Commonwealth Secretariat, said:
“To be safe and fair, online counter-terrorism policies need to work for big countries and big tech platforms. But they also need to work for small states, and for small or new tech platforms.
“In setting policies and practices for terrorist use of the internet, there are three human rights principles that we need always keep in mind. The first is the rule of law – is the law clear? Are our actions shaped by the law? Secondly, are we only doing what is necessary and proportionate? Thirdly, do we have the right kinds of protections in place?”
Bernadette Lewis, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, said:
“We are focussed on building the capacity of member countries, so that as they embrace technology and deal with this digital age, they are also able to mount an effective counterattack to terrorism, as part of their digital transformation.
“Global co-operation and collaboration is mandatory in combatting the use of the internet by terrorists and extremists.”
Although the focus of the sessions was Asia and the Pacific, a great many attendees tuned in from other regions of the Commonwealth, demonstrating that this is an important challenge shared across regions.
At the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, leaders encouraged member countries to support work designed to prevent the use of the internet for radicalisation, the inciting of violence and the recruitment of Commonwealth citizens by extremist groups.
The Commonwealth Secretariat’s CVE Unit has been leading on this work. These webinars are part of a series on preventing terrorist use of the internet. Three related workshops that focused on Africa were delivered in September 2021.
Feedback for the Asia and Pacific webinars was overwhelmingly positive, with all participants reporting increased knowledge, ideas and understanding on its completion.
A senior Law Enforcement Officer from Pakistan said: “I have gained insight on the topic and am looking forward to collaboration on this account. I was really interested in the discussion on the use or definition of ‘terrorism’ in terms of terrorist use of the internet.”
Learn more about our countering violent extremism work
- Amy Coles Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat