The cyberspace is increasingly used as a medium to illegally fund, recruit, train, and incite individuals against European social and democratic ideals. Behavioural radicalisation online, desensitisation and demoralisation are to be considered as the driving force in the genesis of online criminal attitudes, belief systems, and psychological attributes that move towards accepting, supporting and instigating terrorism.
The core aim of the PROPHETS project is to examine the process of behavioural radicalisation online and how it leads to hate speech, terrorist financing, terrorist-generated content, terrorist recruitment and training.
PROPHETS focuses on understanding the process of behavioural radicalisation and addresses the relational dynamics between radical behaviours and the following four key areas, namely:
Online terrorist-related hate speech
Online terrorist-generated content
Online recruitment and training of terrorism
Online financing of terrorism
The above-mentioned terms require a clear definition. In this respect, it is reasonable to consult Directive (EU) 2017/541 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2017 on combating terrorism.
Article 3 of this Directive (EU) clarifies that all forms of terrorism are aimed at one or more of the following three goals:
seriously intimidating a population;
unduly compelling a government or an international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act;
seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation.
Herefrom derive the following definitions of the project's key areas:
ONLINE HATE SPEECH
Broadly speaking, hate speech is a narrow, specific category of speech that constitutes a discursive manifestation of the marginalisation, discrimination and exclusion suffered by those groups vulnerable to that status (Gelber, 2019). More specifically, online hate speech is understood as all forms of online expression which disseminate, promote or justify racism, xenophobia, antisemitism or other forms of intolerance based on hate, including intolerance which is expressed in the form of aggressive nationalism and ethnocentricity, discrimination and hostility to minorities, migrants and people with a migrant background (adapted from: Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, 1997).
ONLINE FINANCING OF TERRORISM
Article 11 stipulates that „providing or collecting funds, by any means, directly or indirectly, with the intention that they be used, or in the knowledge that they are to be used, in full or in part, to commit, or to contribute to the commission of, any of the offences referred to in Articles 3 to 10 is punishable as a criminal offence when committed intentionally.
ONLINE TERRORIST-GENERATED CONTENT
In accordance with Article 5 of the above-mentioned Directive the spread of terrorist-generated content is understood as „the distribution, or otherwise making available […] of a message to the public, with the intent to incite the commission of one of the offences listed in points (a) to (i) of Article 3(1), where such conduct, directly or indirectly, such as by the glorification of terrorist acts, advocates the commission of terrorist offences, thereby causing a danger that one or more such offences may be committed, is punishable as a criminal offence when committed intentionally.“
ONLINE RECRUITEMENT AND TRAINING OF TERRORISM
Article 6 defines recruitment as “soliciting another person to commit or contribute to the commission of one of the offences listed in points (a) to (i) of Article 3(1), or in Article 4”, whereas Article 7 points out that training is to be understood as “providing instruction on the making or use of explosives, firearms or other weapons or noxious or hazardous substances, or on other specific methods or techniques, for the purpose of committing, or contributing to the commission of, one of the offences listed in points (a) to (i) of Article 3(1), knowing that the skills provided are intended to be used for this purpose.”