(ISIS photo)

Violent Extremism and Terrorism Online in 2018: The Year in Review

In terms of overarching trends, the focus of policymakers, internet companies, media, and thus also publics has, since 2014, been almost exclusively on IS’s online activity. A growing concern with extreme right activity, both its online and offline variants, began to be apparent in 2017 however, especially in the wake of events in Charlottesville. This solidified in 2018 due to a number of factors, including a decrease in IS terrorist attacks in the West and an uptick in extreme right and hate attacks and terrorist events, a number of the latter of which appeared to have significant online components. Having said this, IS is still active on the ground in numerous locales globally and continues to produce and widely disseminate online content, as do a large number of other groups that share core tenets of its ideology. IS may be down therefore, but it is certainly not out.

Despite significant territorial losses, a downturn in terrorist attacks in the West, and dropped media output, IS is still active globally in both ‘real world’ and online settings. It claimed, for example, to have carried out 467 attacks worldwide in September 2018, 228 of these in Iraq and 172 in Syria, based on its own count. Its most deadly 2018 attacks were carried out by its ‘Khorasan Province’ in Afghanistan rather than in previously core territories however.  Somalia and the Philippines—both of which were awarded the status of wilayah or ‘province,’ so basically designated official branches, in July 20183 —were two other countries that witnessed an increase in IS activity during the year.

Official IS media outlets continued to circulate press releases/official claims of responsibility, photo montages, audio, videos, and infographics online throughout 2018. These were most easily accessible via the messaging application Telegram. Almost 700 items of official IS propaganda were produced in January 2018, a distinct uptick from the 345 in October 2017, 307 in November 2017, and 326 in December 2017 respectively. 4 By September 2018 this had risen further, to a total of 894 media items, compared to 774 in September 2017, the month before IS lost its Iraqi ‘capital’ of Raqqa. Overall, IS issued an average of 616 media items per month between January and September 2018, compared to 947 for the same period in 2017.5 This means it was operating at about half its monthly output capacity in, say, 2015.

Read the report from Vox Pol

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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