The G7 countries and internet giants agreed on Friday 20 October in Italy on a plan to block online "terrorist" content at a time when the Islamic State Organisation (IO) "no longer has any territory" after the fall of its final stronghold in Raqqa.
Ahe fall of Raqqa, stronghold of the Islamic State (EI) group in Syria, " is a very hard military defeat, but that doesn't mean that this group no longer exists. "said Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti at the close of a meeting of his G7 counterparts on the Italian island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples.
" This is the first time "He welcomed the fact that the G7 countries - the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Canada - and the representatives of the main internet and social network operators are sitting around the same table together, Mr Minniti said.
He recalled that the Internet had revealed itself " a major means of recruitment, training and radicalisation of foreign fighters "and that the fight against terrorism on the web was particularly important at the time of the IA." no longer has territory ".
Representatives of Google, Facebook and Twitter and the G7 ministers agreed on an action plan to block "the use of the Internet by the European Union and its Member States. terrorist content ".
" The meeting with the Internet operators was more than satisfactory. ", said Mr. Minniti, deploring the fact that the EI is circulating on the internet " like a fish in water ".
The agreement provides that content that glorifies terrorism, or calls for terrorist acts to be carried out, " are deleted within two hours of being put online "The French interior minister, Gérard Collomb, told AFP.
A joint statement by the French, British and Italian leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly was already going " in this sense, and this is what the major Internet players are committed to. "added Mr. Collomb.
" We need to do more "Elaine Duke, Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, thanked the major social networks for their collaboration. According to a diplomatic source, France, the United Kingdom and Italy have reached " after two hours of negotiations to obtain the agreement of the United States on the text ». Mrs. Duke. " pointed to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which makes freedom of expression, whatever its content, fundamental. "said Gérard Collomb. « For our part, we argued that the Internet was no longer a vector of freedom but a primary factor of insecurity with thousands of deaths worldwide. ", he continued.
Faced with these recurring accusations, the major digital platforms are defending themselves because the situation has changed in a few years. Until recently, the Internet giants were wrapped in the dogma of absolute respect for freedom of expression. This dogma was all the stronger among the Anglo-Saxons and even more so among the community of the historic founders of the Internet. But, in the face of the multiplication of violent and tragic events, the situation has changed.
The rules of major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube have been changed. They define what content is allowed and now very clearly prohibit terrorist apology or propaganda. After the accusations by Theresa May, Facebook's director of public affairs, Simon Milner, had held that The World...to say that he wants " Facebook is a hostile environment for terrorists ". " We remove terrorist content from the platforms as soon as we learn of its existence. "he said. His Twitter buddy couldn't have said it better: " Terrorist content has no place on Twitter. ".
It is true that under the pressure of events, opinions and governments, social networks have decided, in recent months, to take serious initiatives. Twitter announced at the end of March that it had suspended 377,000 accounts inciting terrorism during the second half of 2016. Facebook and YouTube, for their part, launched an algorithm at the end of 2016 capable of automatically detecting and deleting all content containing Islamist propaganda or incitement to violence. Mark Zuckerberg's network also announced at the end of May the hiring of 3,000 "little hands", Facebook spies, to provide human support for algorithmic surveillance.
The signs of a recovery are multiplying. Several police units in different States have developed protocols for alerting social networks to illegal content. 91 % of them are reportedly being followed up.
But what is the real impact of these measures on terrorism? Surveillance of networks can only be carried out after the fact, when illegal content is reported. But it is impossible and undesirable for a priori censorship to be applied. On the other hand, the role of the Internet in radicalization is not clearly demonstrated. The expert on the issue is Canadian researcher Benjamin Ducol, head of research at the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence (CPRMV), located in Montreal. Ducol says Internet plays a role, but not always a major one ".
Questioned by the newspaper The Crosshe explains that the major risk of the Internet lies in the fact that it allows you to enter a "new world". cognitive bubble » : « The Internet reinforces the ideas that one has, because, through the effect of social networks and algorithms, it automatically proposes content related to previous searches or contacts, and excludes any deviant proposals. The Internet can lock people into a way of thinking ".
Whether it is supported or amplified by the Internet, the radicalisation process does not start from scratch in any case, experts agree. « Behind every radicalisation process there is a fertile ground that makes some individuals more (pre)willing than others to embark on the path of radicalisation.
However, this fertile soil varies greatly from one individual to another, as a result of the social, family, cultural, relational and psychological conditions specific to each one. ", says Benjamin Ducol. He continues: « In the vast majority of cases, the Internet thus operates as a catalyst rather than as a primary cause of adherence to an extremist cause. For individuals already convinced or in the process of being convinced, the web becomes a ground where an identity fantasy can freely develop: that of being part of a grandiloquent collective cause (jihad, the defence of an identity purity, etc.) requiring full commitment. [...] No one becomes a jihadist, however, just because of the web and social media. What the web produces is this monstrous amalgam between a fantasized ideological narrative of the world (jihadism, extreme right-wing identity, exacerbated ultranationalism, etc.) and individuals who are often vulnerable, naïve or predisposed to believe the discourse to which they are exposed online. In the absence of any critical perspective, individuals come to take at face value the arguments and justifications cross-examined on the internet. "
Cause, catalyst, accelerator? is the problem of the influence of social networks on Islamist terrorism a real false problem? Terrorists are not born from networks, but networks are very useful to them in order to develop. The agreement signed between the G7 and the Internet giants is another step towards eradicating it.