Toward a Framework Understanding of Online Programs for Countering Violent Extremism
There is an emerging consensus that ideologically-based narratives play a central role in encouraging and sustaining radicalization to violence, and that preventing, arresting, or reversing radicalization requires some means by which to address the effects of these narratives. Countering violent extremism (CVE) is a broad umbrella phrase that covers a wide array of approaches that have been advanced to reduce the radicalizing effects of extremist narratives. There is considerably less agreement, however, regarding the most appropriate means by which the mitigation of extremist narratives might best be accomplished. An important emerging area of interest is the role of the Internet, both as a forum through which narratives are transmitted and as an avenue for delivering CVE programs. At present, very little is known about which principles and practices should inform online CVE initiatives. This study attempts to establish a foundation and framework for these programs: first, by identifying the concepts and constructs which may be most relevant to countering violent extremism online, and second, by examining the available material from six online CVE programs in relation to these concepts. This examination suggests that these programs are lacking strong theoretical foundations and do not address important elements of radicalization, such as contextual factors or identity issues. It is important that future iterations of CVE programs consider not just the specific content of the narratives, but also take into account why these narratives have resonance for particular individuals.
Author’s Note: The authors wish to thank Public Safety Canada for their generous support of the research on which this article is based. The article has been adapted from material found in, Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, “Assessment of the State of Knowledge: Connections between Research on the Social Psychology of the Internet and Violent Extremism.” The views expressed in the current article only engage the authors.
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