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Online Extremism and Terrorism Researcher Security and Privacy: Some Practical Advice

Fortunately for Western scholars, as pointed out by Berger, “[t]o date, jihadist extremists have not systematically targeted researchers for potential violence outside of conflict zones. Indeed, groups such as al Qaeda have often sought to benefit from adversary research.” But as also pointed out in the same report, “[a]s research increases on right-wing movements with a larger and more diffuse presence, researchers may need to be more conscious of potential threats closer to home.” Aside from posing physical dangers to researchers, both jihadist and right-wing extremists have been known to engage in networked forms of abuse, some of which also have the potential to spill over into ‘real world’ settings.

Researcher online harassment and other forms of networked abuse can take a variety of forms, including ‘doxxing’ (i.e. posting individuals’ private information online oftentimes accompanied by implicit or explicit requests to use it for online and/or ‘real world’ harassment), ‘brigading’ (i.e. a group of users coordinating to ‘pile on’ another user for harassment purposes), and ‘swatting’ (i.e. making a hoax telephone call to emergency services in an attempt to have them dispatch heavily armed police—in the US, a ‘SWAT team’—to a particular address), which may also be used in combination. In fact, the extreme right have a long history of this type of behaviour, having carried out “perhaps the world’s first instance of doxxing” in the 1980s and employing swatting in their much more recent online harassment campaign against women in computer gaming known as ‘Gamergate.’

Read more at the Global Network on Extremism & Technology

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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