On the occasion of the Special Meeting of the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee held in New York on 1-2 December 2016, ICT4Peace and the UN Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate (UNCTED) presented an initial Report on the findings of a joint project on ‘Private Sector Engagement in Responding to the Use of the Internet and ICT for Terrorist Purposes: Strengthening Dialogue and Building Trust’.

The report can be accessed here.

The UN CTED Technical Session that marked the first day of meetings featured a panel on 'International cooperation and public-private partnership while respecting international human rights', during which members of the UNCTED-ICT4Peace project Advisory Group from Microsoft, Facebook and Telefónica presented on how their companies are responding to terrorist use of their technologies and services, and the normative framework guiding that response. The session was moderated by Daniel Stauffacher, President of ICT4Peace, and can be watched here. During the CTC session the following day, Rafal Rohozinski, CEO of SecDev, and also a member of the project Advisory Group discussed the use of big data analytics in assessing the threat of terrorism and preventing violent extremism, highlighting a number of important findings from applied research. The video is available here.

The Joint UNCTED-ICT4Peace project

The first phase of the joint UNCTED-ICT4Peace project (April to December, 2016) focused on convening a broad number of stakeholders for initial consultations on current existing and emerging threats relating to the use of the Internet and ICT for terrorist purposes; industry approaches to responding to terrorist use of the Internet and ICT and emerging principles, standards and practices shaping that response; trends in multistakeholder and public-private engagement in responding to terrorist use of ICT; and mechanisms/platforms for information exchange and sharing of lessons/practice on the industry response to terrorist use of the Internet and ICT.

The consultations were carried out through a series of workshops held in Geneva, Zurich, California and Kuala Lumpur and involved representatives from technology and social media companies, the telecommunications and financial sectors, civil society, and inter-governmental agencies.

The project findings point to the emergence of a voluntary policy framework guiding private and public action in responding to online terrorist content and activity. The voluntary framework recognizes the importance of enhancing public safety with actions that remain anchored in the rule of law, protecting and respecting human rights and core principles such as transparency, accountability, predictability and remedy. At the same time, the consultations laid bare that there is a risk that this emerging policy framework may be undermined by some of the measures that are being taken in response to public security concerns posed by the growing incidence of terrorist use of the internet. These measures include restrictions, lawful or unlawful orders compelling companies to provide access to user data, and steps to increase greater state involvement in internet governance.

Evidently, it is impossible to ignore the public security challenges relating to online terrorist activity and content. At the same time, and as they move to respond to online terrorist content and activity, both public and private actors should consider the longer-term prevention benefits of ensuring that the core principles that form the basis of the emerging policy framework are respected.

A number of policy and programmatic level recommendations were the result of this first phase of the project and include the following:

  • Building on existing initiatives, promote stronger and more sustainable dialogue and information exchanges between private sectors actors (e.g. between technology and social media companies and the financial sector), and between the private sector and governments and civil society.
  • Support dialogue around and consolidation of the emerging global policy framework.
  • Encourage coordination of effort, particularly among inter-governmental organisations and between these organisations and the private sector
  • Strengthen the links between OFFLINE and ONLINE efforts to prevent and counter terrorism, and reinforce the importance of context when developing and implementing policy.
  • Develop a global mechanism for knowledge and information sharing.
  • Invest in empirical, policy-relevant research, particularly with regard to assessing the impact or effectiveness of existing and emerging approaches to content management and counter-narrative efforts.
  • Raise awareness and build capacity of smaller companies and other key stakeholders.
  • Promote greater investment in and support of critical thinking and media/digital literacy efforts.

A second phase of the project will commence in January 2017, with the publication of a series of short policy briefs on issues discussed during the different workshops held to date.

The project is led by Dr Camino Kavanagh, Senior Advisor, ICT4Peace and Mr. Marc Porret, Legal Advisor, UNCTED, with the support of project researchers and associates Adam Hadley, Sophia Khan and Diana Ruiz for ICT4Peace and Matteo Sestito and Katie Wilson for UNCTED.

Issues: Cybersecurity, Cybercrime

The Geneva Internet Platform is an initiative of the Swiss authorities


Members of the Steering Committee are FDFA, OFCOM and the Canton of Geneva

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