POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 81 Youth Online and at Risk: Radicalization Facilitated by the Internet continued... ...continued SPREADING AND SHARING IDEAS For many groups, the internet serves as an ideal tool to connect with likeminded individuals or those with shared interests on the other side of the world. It enables people to connect and form relationships that otherwise would not happen. This is no different for groups that share an interest in a sports team or seek to change political processes, promote a cause, or perpetuate violence. The internet—and the advent of online tools such as Twitter—enables the effective dissemination of content in near real-time. In many cases, messages go from the original author on one side of the world to the consumer on the other without being filtered. While this is beneficial for benign content, it also means that offensive or provocative material can be distributed without passing through the filter of traditional media or normal standards based on a society’s accepted mores. The speed and nature of the internet also means that individuals who are fortunate enough to read and speak multiple languages have access to insights and opinions from a broader range of sources. While this can be of great benefit it can also open oneself to increased numbers of extremist and violent ideologies. Capitalizing on this characteristic are many individuals and groups that seek a controlled space to distort and manipulate reality to put forth only one message or view of current events. Traditionally, groups had to use pamphlets that could be intercepted by adults or caught up with other messages. Without alternative view points on the website and associated discussion groups, the internet can be used to “spread misinformation and false rumours” in the hopes of reaching “disaffected youth, and to enlist sympathizers and financial supporters.” WHAT’S BEING SHARED? With the advantages of quick dissemination and little-to-no filtering, it is no surprise that the internet is being used to target young people with radical and violent ideologies. Because of the advantages the internet has, chat rooms, YouTube channels, and interactive websites with images, videos, and games that aim to put forward a radical and violent agenda are proliferatingn quickly. A statistic often cited is that extremist website exponentially grew from just a dozen in 1998 to well over 4,500 in 2006. While the increase of videos, pictures, and chat rooms may not be a surprise, the content and how it is displayed may shock both adults and youth. WHAT YOU CAN DO The internet poses a number of risks to young Canadians. The federal government and its partners are working to monitor websites that disseminate radical messages, encourage violence, and seek to recruit youth into the ranks of extremist organizations. However, monitoring and the disruption of internet sites by law enforcement agencies is only a temporary measure as the material is often duplicated elsewhere with the click of a mouse. In light of this, there are a number of things that parents, teachers, and community leaders can do to lessen the risks and facilitate a safe internet experience younger generations. The radicalization to violence of youth ultimately originates within specific communities. Therefore, it is essential for adults within these communities to be aware of the risks and with youth and available partners to counter radicalization. Parents, teachers and caregivers want to provide guidance to keep young people safe in the real world and it should be no different when they venture online.