University of Leicester to host debate on role of internet in fostering extremism

Violent Online Radicalisation: Weighing the Role of the Internet in Contemporary Terrorism: Wednesday 9 February at 3.30pm in Lecture Theatre 3, Attenborough Building, University of Leicester. Open to the public and free.

The role of the internet in fostering extremism is to be the focus of expert debate at the University of Leicester.

The University is hosting a discussion on Violent Online Radicalisation: Weighing the Role of the Internet in Contemporary Terrorism. It takes place on Wednesday 9 February at 3.30pm in Lecture Theatre 3, Attenborough Building. The event is free and open to the public.

Organised by the University’s Department of Media and Communication, the visiting speaker is Dr Maura Conway, of the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University.

She said: “My presentation will ask: Is it possible for persons to be radicalised online? In particular, can online content-violent and non-violent-cause persons to become violently radicalised?

“There seems to be a growing consensus amongst legislators and others that the Internet plays an increasingly prominent role in violent radicalisation as evidenced by the raft of legal measures introduced worldwide since 9-11 to counter terrorist use of the Internet. Media attention to this issue has also increased significantly in recent years as a result of the role of the Internet in prominent events such as the Christmas Day airline bomb plot and the Fort Hood attack, amongst others.

“The significance of the role of the Internet in processes of radicalisation is open to contestation, however. Some scholars insist that the Internet’s role is significant and increasing whereas others submit that the role played by the Internet in violent radicalisation is minimal.

“My presentation will weigh the role of the Internet in violent radicalisation, to include a review of the relevant academic literature, with a view to identifying the major strands of research in this area and the theory and evidence underlying same.”

Dr Conway’s presentation connects with current research being undertaken within the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Leicester.

Dr Paul Reilly, a lecturer at Leicester, has a specific research interest in terrorism and the internet and is currently working on a paper with Dr Conway entitled, “Twitter and Terrorism: A Preliminary Exploration of the Hamas Presence in the Tweetsphere” which will be presented at the British International Studies Association Annual Conference in Manchester, 27-29 April. The project uses a variety of research methodologies including analysis of Twitter feeds to investigate the public relations and propaganda functions of Twitter for Hamas

Also at Leicester, Dr Farida Vis has a research focus on religion and forms of online social media and was recently invited to speak at a seminar in Copenhagen on ‘exploring daily Islam’. In her presentation on YouTube and Islam,

Dr Vis highlighted Dr Conway’s work specifically to enable her to start making an argument not only for methods, but more so for not simply focusing on extremism (which is more about knowledge practices in general). Dr Vis is also currently writing a grant proposal (Islam on YouTube) that will explore this in greater detail and will link with two other key researchers in the UK in this area.

University of Leicester Website