The use of social media for terrorist recruitment - How should Europe respond?

1 July 2015

A Policy Dialogue exploring how terrorist networks are using social media as a recruitment tool – and how Europe can effectively respond to this challenge – was organised by the European Policy Centre (EPC), in partnership with the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) on 1 July. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr and WhatsApp have recently become primary vehicles for terrorist organisations such as the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS/Daesh), Jabhat Al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda to indoctrinate, radicalise and recruit vulnerable Europeans to fight in Syria and Iraq.This emerging phenomenon touches on issues ranging from civil liberties and freedom of expression to data protection. Any response must therefore strike a balance between respecting rights and keeping European citizens safe. Active cooperation between public authorities and various stakeholders such as the private sector, media, local governments and communities, religious leaders and third countries is also vital.

The EU has recently taken measures to address this challenge – EU Foreign Ministers adopted Council Conclusions on Counter-Terrorism last February – while the United States has updated its Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Nonetheless it is clear that a deeper understanding and ever closer coordination between like-minded actors remain essential preconditions for a successful response. This Policy Dialogue sought to better understand how social media has been instrumentalised by terrorist organisations to radicalise and recruit foreign fighters in Europe; how the EU and other players can effectively eradicate such a phenomenon; and how a credible and resilient counter-radicalisation narrative in Europe and beyond can be achieved.