The Conservative Party has unveiled bold plans to invest a substantial £5 million in building a national network of grassroots organisations that will challenge all forms of extremist ideology. In fact, the announcement was made immediately prior to publication of the Government’s all-new Counter-Extremism Strategy.
At the very heart of that Counter-Extremism Strategy is a new partnership approach configured to strengthen community resilience and promote a coalition that will not be afraid to speak out against – and ultimately defeat – extremism.
For this financial year, the new tranche of funding will be dedicated towards providing direct and in-kind practical support for groups such that they can expand the reach and scale of their work on confronting extremism in tandem with the development of “credible alternative narratives” to the dangerous views propagated by extremists. The former could well include structured training on social media.
“We need to systematically confront and challenge extremism and the ideologies that underpin it,” explained Prime Minister David Cameron, “in turn exposing the lies and destructive consequences it leaves in its wake. We must stop extremism at its start by preventing seeds of hatred from even being planted in people’s minds and cutting off any oxygen for growth.”
The Prime Minister continued: “The Counter-Extremism Strategy sets out our new approach to tackle this poison, vigorously counter the ideology that underpins it, take on the violent and non-violent parts of the creed, actively support the mainstream voices such that they might rise above those of the extremists and tackle the segregation and feelings of alienation that can help provide fertile ground for extremism to take root.”
Extremists are increasingly using the Internet to inspire radicalisers into grooming new recruits through online peer-to-peer relationships. Indeed, the past 18 months have witnessed a significant change in the way that extremists use the online medium to target their radical ideology directly at young minds.
According to recent research conducted by the Quilliam Foundation, ISIL produces no less than 38 unique pieces of ‘high quality propaganda’ every day which is then disseminated widely by a network of thousands of supporters and sympathisers spread all over the world.
That being so, the Counter-Extremism Strategy determines to go further in developing the existing partnership between industry, the police service and Government aimed at omitting terrorist and extremist material within the online space.
Co-operation to take down such harmful terrorist and extremist content has significantly improved in recent years. By way of example, the Metropolitan Police Service’s Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit has now removed over 110,000 pieces of extremist propaganda since 2010 and over 38,000 items so far this year, with referrals from members of the public rising by 400% between the end of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.
Feeding on the vulnerable, extremist ideologies purport to offer a sense of belonging and purpose. We must summon all of our powers to defeat their erroneous and damaging narrative.