Published on Feb 25, 2015 by EnGlobal News World
By JACK MOORE,
“You are strong, smart, beautiful and we are hoping you will make the right decision. We miss you more that you can imagine. We are worried and we want you to think about what you have left behind. You had a bright future, so please return home.”
That was emotional plea to Amira Abase from her devastated family after they learned that the 15-year-old had got on a flight from Gatwick to Turkey with two friends Kadiza Sultana and Shamima Begum, 16 and 15, in what police think is an attempt to travel to Syria to join Islamic State as ‘jihadi brides’.
However, along with the sadness, there was also anger after it emerged that the three girls, all pupils at London’s Bethnal Green Academy, had been contacted on Twitter by Aqsa Mahmood, 20, another woman who had flown to Syria from Glasgow in 2013 to join the terror group. with the Mahmood family saying that the British intelligence services, who had been monitoring Aqsa’s account, having “serious questions to answer”.
“Sadly, despite all the government’s rhetoric on ISIS,” the Mahmood family said in a statement, “if they can’t even take basic steps to stop children leaving to join ISIS, what is the point of any new laws?”
That the radicalisation of three teenagers by a known jihadist on a major platform such as Twitter points to major flaws in the strategies being employed by Western intelligence services, with experts saying that they are being overrun by the sheer scale of extremist propaganda online.
The UK Home Office admits the problem, saying that such propaganda “can directly influence people who are vulnerable to radicalisation”. To tackle this perceived bedroom radicalisation, the Home Office say they are cooperating with social media companies and civil society groups, divulging figures that reveal the takedown of unlawful terrorist material online has almost tripled.
While the Home Office could not divulge government spending figures on the battle against online extremism, it revealed that, from 2010 to 2013, 19,000 pieces of online extremist material were removed from websites by the British government’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) in comparison with 56,000 pieces since December 2013 alone, marking an almost 300% rise. Other members of the US-led coalition against ISIS are also increasing their online counter-terror efforts. Australia’s attorney general, George Brandis, announced last week that Canberra would be dedicating $18m (€12.38m) to the closure of websites and social media accounts which proliferate terrorist propaganda.
The British government is also obtaining more information from tech companies – with 194 information requests made to Twitter last year compared to 82 the year before, and 1,906 data requests to Facebook in the second half of 2013 in comparison with 2,110 in the first half of last year. Home Secretary Theresa May called on tech and social media companies to do more to prevent material being circulated on their platforms at a summit on extremism at the White House last week.
“All companies should take a zero-tolerance approach to the use of their systems by extremists,” she told the conference. “I firmly believe that they have a social responsibility to ensure that their platforms are not being abused for extremist or terrorist purposes.”
However, experts argue that, while more and more pieces of extremist material are being removed from the eyes of impressionable Brits, Britain’s security services are overwhelmed to the point that this “cat and mouse” strategy is being rendered ineffective.