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Militants heavily rely on social media for spreading extrimist ideology: Study

By Akhtar M.Nikzad-KABUL: A once media shy Taliban have now become tech-savvy militants as they have learnt how to heavily rely on social media for their media war against the Afghan government, and radicalization of youths, said a survey released on Wednesday. Afghanistan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS) released an investigative report regarding the once media-shy Taliban has now become excessive users of social media for their malign campaign against the Afghan government. The report says that Taliban, Hizb-e-Islami and Daesh, extensively use social media in their media war. AISS said that militants were hell-bent on spreading hate speech under their well orchestrated plan of radicalization through social media. AISS officials said that before the fall of Kunduz city to the Taliban, the militants widely used social media as a tool of psychological warfare. The journey from medieval Taliban to tech savvy militants is worth research, as they once hated modernity, modern education, scientific innovations, smashed television sets when they were in power in 90s, but during the past 14 years, they have changed altogether. Now they have transformed into a tech-savvy force. The erortic contents on internet, and vulgarity on television don’t irk them anymore. Now they heavily benefit from the omnipresence of internet and social media and internet for their media war. They not only use it for the malign campaign but also for the spread of their ideology and radicalizing the young generation.

Naimatullah Ibrahimi, a member of the AISS said that the social media networks effectively paved grounds for the propagation of nationalism yet at the same time radicalism, in the country. Ibrahimi said that now they are not only fighting their war in the battlefields but in cyberspace and on airwaves too. He came hard on the government for failing in taking down militants’ websites and social media accounts. “The government must launch crackdown on militants’ websites and social networking sites,” he said.

“The government’s lack of concern regarding the spread of extremist ideology is creating danger for young Afghans. The government must devise a stronger mechanism to fight the spread of militant ideology on social media,” he suggested. Earlier, the Ministry of Culture and Information has vowed they will launch crackdown on social media networks users as part of mass media law to check the spread of extremist ideology through social media. One year has elapsed but the ministry has failed so far to initiate any crackdown on militant websites.

Reza Mohmmadi, a researcher in AISS said that university students have been radicalized via social media by militants for instance how the students of Nangarhar University gave vent to their extremist views this month.

AISS called on the government to initiate broad consultation with relevant stakeholders, including Afghan civil society, and Islamic activist groups, and educational institutions with the goal of formulating a counter-radicalization approach and policy.

AISS also demanded of the government to review the current procedure for registration of all mobile phone sims in order to make it easy for the relevant government agencies to track down the fake social media users disseminating radical narratives online. Ethnic narratives and political polarization that intensified during the 2014 presidential election crisis also need to be curbed.

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