Some time this week, our podcast Ci - Countering Violent Extremism will celebrate its 100-thousandth download. That will be a proud moment for us, and we’d first like to say thank you to all the listeners around the world who’ve followed us through our first ten episodes. With this eleventh, we’ve hit a milestone far beyond our original ambition.
Our podcast started September 29th last year. We aimed to bring the latest information and thinking about online radicalisation to not only specialists in the field, but also to frontline workers and folks on the street.
We’ve interviewed everyone from policy makers, through journalists and writers, to trainers and specialists in targeted data.
The first interview of our first episode, a talk with International Centre for Counter Terrorism Director Dr Alistair Reed, began with the phrase “Words matter”. We followed up by interviewing writer Cathy Otten.
Words matter, indeed. Dr Reed led us through the subtle and not so subtle differences between the variety of nominators of counter-terrorism. We explored the British government’s position, which emphasises Countering Extremism - a kind of ideological approach that attempts to push people toward ‘right’ thinking. And we looked at Countering Violent Extremism, an approach that takes the stand that radical thought is a normal part of daily political discourse, and that only ideologies leading to violence are worthy of address at the government level.
Cathy Otten then took us through a harrowing journey, recounting the experience of Yazidi women trapped by ISIS, forced into sex slavery, murdered for their history and ideology, and eventually forced to flee Mount Sinjar, with many crossing the desert on foot to relative safety in Iraqi Kurdistan.
But we’ve also covered topics as broad as fake news and, in our latest episode, data protection laws and surveillance practices in China, the EU and the United States. What do data protection laws have to do with Countering Violent Extremism? Everything.
Individuals throughout the world are as likely now to encounter news and information online as through a traditional broadcaster or publisher. And often they’re yielding their data as they do, leaving footprints, revealing habits, preferences, religion, ethnicity and political beliefs.
In doing so, we all make ourselves easy targets, not only for advertisers and social platforms, but also for governments keen on social control, as evidenced by social credit score in China. But we’re also easy targets for security services, and for foreign bad actors like Putin’s Russia, seeking to force citizenries into rival silos of information, undermining democracy and the rule of law.