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GNET Research Digest – July 2023

GNET Research Digest – July 2023
26th October 2023 GNET Team
In Research Digest

Welcome to the July edition of the Global Network on Extremism and Technology (GNET) research digest.

Your digest contains a selection of relevant news, research, academic journal articles, and GNET Insights relating to terrorist use of technology.

GNET Report Launch:
Cults and Online Violent Extremism

Where: Online, via Zoom
When: Monday 31 July 2023, 5 pm BST/ 12 pm EST
What: 30-minute presentation of report findings, followed by 30-minute moderated Q&A

The Global Network on Extremism and Technology (GNET) invites you to attend an online report launch for Inform’s (Information Network Focus on Religious Movements) new GNET Report ‘Cults and Online Violent Extremism’

The event will comprise of a 30-minute presentation of the report findings, followed by a 30-minute moderated Q&A.

The word ‘cultic’ is applied to a diverse range of online activity. This label is not always intended to convey a negative judgement; for example, individual influencers, music groups and brands aspire to a ‘cult following’. However, the use of the words ‘cult’ or ‘cultic’ is usually intended by the speaker as a judgement to draw attention to something that may have some elements typically associated with religion (for example, idealisation of a particular individual, a specific worldview and/or ritual practices) as well as the potential to cause harm and violence.

This report proposes three ideal-typical groupings of online cultic activity that can glorify and inspire violent extremisms: ‘Cultic’ Religious Groups, ‘Online Cultic Milieus’ and ‘Cultic Fandoms’. This is not an exhaustive description of online activity that has been termed ‘cultic’ in popular culture, but it provides a good starting point for further analysis. This report argues that the understanding of ‘cults’ and online activity needs to be carefully nuanced; the complexities of online and offline activities that might result in violent extremism need to be analysed and risk assessed at the level of both group/social movement and individual.

It is important to understand that there are a range of ways individuals interact with these cultic online environments that may or may not represent warning signs or pathways into violent extremism. A holistic understanding of both the nature of the cultic online milieu and an individual’s engagement with that environment is warranted before making assumptions about the nature of any individual’s engagement.

With contributions from:

Suzanne Newcombe, PhD, Director of Inform and Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at the Open University

Sarah Harvey, PhD, Senior Research Officer at Inform

Jane Cooper, MA, Consultant Research Officer at Inform

Ruby Forrester, MA, Research Officer at Inform

Jo Banks, MA, Research Assistant at Inform

Shanon Shah, PhD, Senior Research Officer at Inform

Academic Papers

Akhtar, Nadeem, Muhammad Khalil Khan & Cornelius B Pratt (20 July 2023). Radicalization, Divides, or Interfaith Harmony? Relationship Management and Strategic Communication in SudanPublic Relations Management in Africa. 

Sharma, Ajay, Karunika & Anil Kumar Tewari (20 July 2023). Consciousness towards religious belief and re-radicalization in societiesSecurity Journal. 

Rezvi, Minhazur Rahman & Md Rakib Hossain (20 July 2023). Exploring issues of online hate speech against minority religious groups in Bangladesh. Global Knowledge, Memory and Communication. 

Mutton, Rosie, James Lewis & Sarah Marsden (19 July 2023). Public Mitigation Of Terrorism Risk: A Rapid Review Of The Literature. CREST Research. 

Morrell, Sara (18 July 2023). Mapping Extremist Discourse Communities on Telegram: The Case of the Russian Imperial Movement and Its AffiliatesAPSA.

Balcı, Utkucan, Michael Sirivianos & Jeremy Blackburn (13 July 2023). A Data-driven Understanding of Left-Wing Extremists on Social MediaSocial and Information Networks. 

Costello, William & David Buss (12 July 2023). Why Isn’t There More Incel Violence? Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology. 

Glover, George (6 July 2023). The Challenge of Understanding Terrorism in a New Era of ThreatThe RUSI Journal. 

UN Office & the Economic and Social Research Council (5 July 2023). Countering and Addressing Online Hate Speech: A Guide for policy makers and practitioners.

News Articles

Kirby, Paul (25 July 2023). Brussels bombers found guilty after long murder trial. BBC.Assanvo, William (25 July 2023). Has Côte d’Ivoire found the solution to violent extremism?. Institute for Security Studies.

Ani (25 July 2023). India, Maldives focus on preventing internet exploitation for terrorism in second Joint Working Group meeting. Mid-Day.

Dearden, Lizzie (24 July 2023). Anjem Choudary appears in court charged with directing terrorist organisation. The Guardian.

Min, Ang Hwee (24 July 2023). Growing concern with youth radicalism, terrorism threat to Singapore remains high: ISD. Channel News Asia.

Dathan, Matt (19 July 2023). Terror threat rising amid fears extremists will exploit AI. The Times.

Abdulsamad, Hassan (14 July 2023). Latest blasphemy killing highlights Nigeria’s problem with religious extremism. The Guardian.

Casey, Justin S (17 July 2023). Opinion – Teaching Fascism and the Far Right in International Relations. E-International Relations.

Lee, Ella (15 July 2023). Carlson interview with Tate highlights far-right’s effort to redefine traditionalism. The Hill.


Stoner, Erin (28 July 2023). Schrödinger’s Joke: The Weaponisation of Irony and Humour in the Alt-Right

Gilroy, Georgia (26 July 2023). Fanboys or the Frontline?: How al-Shabaab’s Social Media Influencers are Controlling the Narrative

Parreira, Ricardo (24 July 2023). Europe’s Thin Blue Line: How The Far-Right Imposes Its Ideology On The Police

Gill, Gerard (21 July 2023). Extremist Violence Against the Trans and LGBTQI+ Community in Australia: A Review of Recent Events

Gagnon, Audrey (19 July 2023). The ‘Critical’ and the ‘Sheep’: How Users of Far-Right Pages on Social Media See Themselves and the Mainstream

Nakade, Ryan & Jack Wippell (17 July 2023). Beyond Fake News: Meta-Ideological Awareness (MIA) as an Antidote to Conspiracy and Radicalisation

Looney, Sean (13 July 2023). Content Moderation Through Removal of Service: Content Delivery Networks and Extremist Websites

Gluck, Raphael & Laurence Bindner (10 July 2023). Are Jihadists Profiting from NFTs?

Sykes, Sophia & Veronica Hopner (7 July 2023). Tradwives: The Housewives Commodifying Right-Wing Ideology

Aguilera, Ana (5 July 2023). Drone Use by Violent Extremist Organisations in Africa: The Case of Al-Shabaab

Molas, Bàrbara (3 July 2023). Falling Through the Cracks: Gender Bias in Online Counter-Terrorism and Prevention