Islamic State’s (IS) propaganda campaign in 2014-2015 marked a turning point in the history of digital jihad. The quality and scope of its activities on the Internet proved to be unprecedented. Other Salafi-jihadist violent extremist organisations (VEOs) followed in the footsteps of IS and quickly upgraded their propaganda capabilities. Nevertheless, 2015 marked the beginning of a crisis in Islamic State’s Internet campaign. This process corresponded with increased attention from governments, law enforcement agencies and Internet companies, as they were ramping up their online countering violent extremism (CVE) programs. Effectively, due to the dropping presence of IS on the surface, deep and dark web between 2015 and 2019, many stakeholders and experts believed that content takedown policies were the solution. However, there is not enough evidence to support this claim. In fact, it is quite the opposite, given that we have witnessed the ongoing reinvigoration of militant Islamist propaganda activity on the Internet for at least two years, despite the increasingly strict CVE strategies introduced worldwide. Why do online countering violent extremism strategies not work as intended?
This Insight summarizes some of the core findings of an OSINT-based research project that was discussed in detail in an article published recently by Terrorism and Political Violence. This study examines the current shape of online countering violent extremism programs and their consequences (or lack thereof) for the digital jihadist information ecosystems on the surface web. It explores the reasons why CVE programs are not as efficient as widely believed and suggests some alternative solutions to curb digital jihadist activities.