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As Daesh’s ‘Caliphate’ Collapses, the Online Threat Increases

As Iraqi forces continue to liberate parts of Mosul, which was invaded and taken over by Daesh in 2014, reports of the collapse of the brutal terrorist organisation are emerging.

Indeed, Daesh itself knows it is not only losing territory – it’s so-called ‘caliphate’ – but also respect and relevance.

It is a great achievement: the militant group which has run riot in Iraq and Syria and been responsible for horrific war crimes is being ousted. Overthrown. Crushed.

But with it comes a new danger. One that brings Daesh even closer to home.

We have seen how Daesh utilises social media and encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp to target vulnerable young people.

 The flow of foreign fighters joining Daesh to fight in Syria and Iraq was once as many as 2,000 per month. Many had been radicalised and recruited online via direct communication between militant jihadis and our children’s smartphones and iPads.

Now that reports suggest less than 50 people from the West are traveling to join Daesh, it’s easy to think that the threat is over.

But, as experts at King’s College London have explained, the online threat is now greater than ever.

To keep the twisted ideology of an ‘Islamic State’ alive, Daesh is counting on the digital world. It aims to maintain support via its online activities – and even enhance its reach by targeted people with renewed enthusiasm.

Daesh has a huge ‘back catalogue’ of propaganda which it is working to re-use. This information, which has been used to radicalise our children, is destined for their eyes unless we become even more vigilant.

 They want our young people to become radicalised and carry out ‘lone wolf’ attacks in our own country. Daesh offers ‘how-to’ guides to use accessible objects as weapons, such as our children’s cars and vans.

We cannot allow our children to become Daesh militants and harm innocent men, women and children on our streets. We must learn how to spot the signs of radicalisation as the online threat from Daesh increases. If the terrorist groups are ramping up their efforts to target our children, we must increase our efforts to prevent them from doing so.

Daesh is on Twitter, Facebook, Telegram, Tumblr, Ask.fm, Instagram, YouTube and many other platforms. Often these conversations begin on open social media sites and then move onto private messaging applications.

For some young people changes in their online profiles, including their profile image or name, can reflect the fact that they are beginning to associate with extremist ideas. Young people may even run two online identities, one their ‘normal’ or old self, the other an extremist identity, often in another name.

FAST offers support about how to Spot the Signs of radicalisation.

If you have concerns your child might be affected by anything you’ve read here, you may want to raise the issue with someone you trust, perhaps a friend or family member who knows your child well. Explain your worries, and find out if they have noticed anything out of the ordinary. We can help you find help.

Families really can be the home front as the front line moves online, into our children’s bedrooms, their pockets via their smartphones, their minds via YouTube. If you have any concerns or questions, contact us.