MicroPact Blog

How Technology Can Help Counter Violent Extremism

John Wright's avatar

By: John Wright

July 9, 2019 | Justice and Law EnforcementLeadership

In a report on the Mayor of London’s approach to ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ (Greater London Authority, 2019), it is heartening to read that 66% of Londoners would tell the police if they were worried about an individual being manipulated or exploited towards extremism or terrorism. At the same time, it is deeply concerning that the report found that 64% of Londoners would not know how to seek help from the authorities. The Mayor’s programme calls on the UK Government, National Counter-Terrorism Police HQ, and local authorities to take actions to address this awareness gap. The question is, how? And what role does technology play?

Empowering Citizens

Since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the UK’s Counter Terrorism strategy has recognised that citizens are the eyes and ears on the frontline in identifying extremism. However, the direct route into policing can be intimidating to the average citizen because of the risk of being drawn into prosecution processes. To encourage citizens to get involved, the report recommends that the UK National Counter Terrorism Police “should create a new phone line and online portal for referring safeguarding concerns. This should very clearly set out that it relates primarily to safeguarding concerns rather than criminality.” 

This is an important first step, but a wise use of modern technology can make these traditional reporting channels even more powerful. By utilising workflows, rules, and integration tools, law enforcement agencies can integrate automated chat, social media, and established channels such as Crimestoppers with the information collected by the new phone line and portal. All of the gathered data can then be aggregated, and insights obtained. Any resultant action can then be tracked and monitored, along with feedback regarding success or otherwise.

Limiting the Spread

The report also notes the concerning fact that 25% of Londoners have experienced or witnessed views promoting, endorsing, or supporting extremism over the last 12 months. Survey participants drew special attention to the use of the internet by extremists to promote their ideologies and also to raise funds. Technology companies, particularly Internet Service Providers and Social Media companies, have a role to play in reducing the ability for those who wish to use the internet to promote violent extremism. Further, they must increase the ability of the public to refer such content to the authorities for swift evaluation and, if necessary, removal.

Using the Data

There have been improvements in the collation of information and analysis of risk from multi-agency partners, especially in relation to the regular Counter Terrorism Local Profile (CTLP) analytical document creation process. CTLPs identify the threat and vulnerability from terrorism and extremism in local areas. They help the police and local partners understand and prioritise threat and vulnerability, with suggested recommendations to address any risk. If appropriately de-sensitised and disseminated, CTLPs could assist in raising awareness of how the public can raise concerns. 

Again, technology and technology providers have a key role to play. Technological solutions should be implemented to improve the briefing process, and to create new channels to report concerns. This will assist in increasing the referral of individuals of concern to the relevant agencies. The CTLP could then be used to implement the report’s recommendation to “provide regular updates to local authorities and community partners on the activity of proscribed group activists particularly the forming of new groups.”

Data Pulled from THE LONDON COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM PROGRAMME REPORT 2018-19

These figures opposite, from the report show the numbers and percentages of referrals of individuals of concern from families and friends and communities.  The small numbers suggest that many challenges remain to encourage public confidence in CVE. Technology is part of the solution to this problem.

The Mayor’s report is a wide-ranging and insightful approach to CVE that includes recommendations on funding, legislation, and education as well as software technology. The other technology recommendations should initiate a deep and collaborative discussion with technology providers. The report is a valuable contribution to the evolution and enhancement of the mission to counter violent extremism. 

MicroPact has extensive experience providing technology to law enforcement agencies to coordinate records, track individual cases, and integrate data across agencies for analysis. To learn more about how this type of technology can help to combat extremism, contact us.

About the Author

John Wright is Director, International Public Safety & Alliances at MicroPact. He previously led the team in the Office of the National Coordinator for PREVENT that led the CTLP process to prevent violent extremism in the UK.