Combating Online Extremist Recruitment: The Criminalisation of Opinion and Belief


Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Self-radicalisation and radicalisation by extremist and terrorist groups occurs face to face, within community groups and increasingly online. Drawing a distinction between off-line and online radicalisation is unhelpful in this digital age, given that both ‘lines’ are so far interlinked and interconnected they have become indistinguishable. Online community groups for example yield a much higher rate of individualist engagement, given that people can remain anonymous should they wish and still engage with the like-minded. The Islamic State’s rise to power shows this, as does recent news surrounding the extremist Incel Movement, with an ever-growing presence online which can lead to criminal and terrorist action resulting in death and serious injury.
This chapter outlines the way in which extremist and terrorist groups, and individual terrorists use the Internet and communicational technology in the digital age, to groom, radicalise and recruit supporters. Focusing on the targeting of social media, chat room and blogs, through to encryption, and the many darkweb chat rooms and social networks, this chapter will illustrate the state’s legal response falls short in one sense, and broad in others. Extremist and terrorist misuse of genuine technological growth cumulates an unquantifiable threat to UK national security. Rather than the old proverb ‘finding needles in haystacks’, it has quickly become the case of ‘finding needles in needles, in an ever-expanding stack of needles’.
This chapter will focus on the UK’s latest efforts to criminalise the expression of opinion and belief through the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 (CTBSA), linking this through to the shortcomings within the transformative state surveillance powers under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (IPA). Linking the digital surveillance powers under IPA to the extremist recruitment threat is helpful in determining the usefulness and assessment of the collective security versus individual human rights conundrum.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPrevent Strategy
Subtitle of host publicationHelping the Vulnerable being drawn towards Terrorism or Another Layer of State Surveillance?
EditorsDavid Lowe, Robin Bennett
Number of pages160
ISBN (Electronic)9781003039105
ISBN (Print)9780367482947
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020


  • Terrorism
  • Prevent
  • Prevent Strategy
  • Islamist
  • Terror
  • police
  • policing
  • Law
  • Law and philosophy
  • Law enforcement
  • legal education
  • Extremism
  • Extremist
  • violence


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