The Mirror Has Two Faces: Terrorist Use of the Internet and the Challenges of Governing Cyberspace

The Mirror Has Two Faces: Terrorist Use of the Internet and the Challenges of Governing Cyberspace

Shefali Virkar (University of Oxford, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9661-7.ch001
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Abstract

The Information Revolution has greatly impacted how nation-states and societies relate to one another; particularly wherein new, or hitherto less powerful, actors have emerged to bypass and influence established channels of power, altering the manner in which nation-states define their interests, power bases, security, and increasingly, their innate ability to govern and control flows of information. This book chapter investigates the ‘winner-takes-all' hypothesis relative to how the Internet, its associated platforms, and technologies have been harnessed to enhance the activities of both transnational terrorist networks and the organisations, clusters, and individuals dedicated to researching and combating them. The issues covered by this research raise important questions about the nature and the use of technology by state and non-state actors in an asymmetric ‘information war'; of how ideas of terrorism, surveillance, and censorship are conceptualised, and manner in which the role of the nation-state in countering and pre-empting threats to national security has been redefined.
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Background

This book chapter investigates the ‘winner-takes-all’ hypothesis in relation to how the Internet and its associated platforms and technologies have been harnessed to enhance the activities of both transnational terrorist networks and the organisations, clusters, and individuals dedicated to researching and combating them. The attacks of September 11, 2001 on the United States of America, followed closely by numerous instances of terrorist-related activity around the world, demonstrated that modern-day terrorist networks are widely interconnected and connected to each other, and are able to harness effectively the flexibility afforded by the Internet and its associated technologies in order to achieve key aims, goals, and objectives.

Transnational terrorism has always been a security issue of great sovereign concern, and dissident groups have consistently taken advantage of the potentialities of the new digital communications media in direct opposition to the fundamental constitution of the nation-state. With scholars, practitioners, and researchers increasingly using the Web- and Internet-based search engines and databases to locate highly specialised information, knowledge, and sources of expertise, the question also stands of whether digital data collection and the use of online data resources to understand and to combat terrorism enhances the range of available channels of excellence and expertise and improves state-citizen relations, or if their frequent use and overuse results in an eventual oversimplification of terrorist typologies that is bound to become a more pressing concern for the community in the not-so-distant future. In this respect, the issues central to the understanding of terrorism and terrorist-related networks and activities might be best addressed by examining the impact of the Internet and its related digital platforms and applications on society and the body politic through the double lens of power and governance.

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