ICCT Key Publications: Terrorism in the Age of Technology

With technological advancements on a constant rise and the West’s structural dependence on them, the links between digital technology and terrorism are crucial points of attention. On one side, emerging technologies are accessible to terrorists and extremists to sell propaganda, move funds internationally, procure weapons and components and even manufacture firearms. On the other side, the governments’ use of new technologies, such as drones and AI/facial recognition, to counter terrorism is putting increased pressure on human rights. To gain more nuanced information about these topics, dive into some of the most recent and past ICCT publications on terrorism and technology.

1️⃣In recent years, governments have shown a keen interest in employing data-driven learning-based artificial intelligence (AI) systems to identify individuals who may threaten national security. The move is part of the shift from a reactive to a pre-emptive approach to counterterrorism following the 9/11 events. But machine learning systems and deep learning models are often tested and used without the general public’s awareness. Furthermore, AI-based predictions may be used to justify the application of a broad range of administrative measures infringing on fundamental rights. This Perspective critically examines some challenges posed to the rule of law and human rights by states’ use of AI systems to make predictions of terrorist threats.

2️⃣ There have been substantial concerns within policy and the media that terrorists may abuse online technologies to enable anonymous funds transfers. This is particularly the case for electronic online and new payment methods, such as virtual currencies, that can be accessed globally and used to quickly transfer funds with difficulty identifying the actual end-user. In this Perspective, Joe Whittaker unravels how terrorists use financial technologies to move money, make purchases, and the impact it has on the success of their plots.

3️⃣ What is the potential threat of extremist/terrorist use of 3D-printed weapons? What factors may impede or promote their adoption of this technology? This Perspective by Yannick Veilleux-Lepage discusses instances of terrorist use of 3D-printed firearms along with factors that may impede or facilitate the adoption of this technology.

4️⃣The benefits and drawbacks of developing technology and artificial intelligence are accessible to all – civilians and terrorists alike. Therefore, it is integral to understand the threat these technologies pose when in the hands of someone with malicious intent. This Report puts into perspective the threat posed by the use of technology in terrorism, with a specific focus on the Netherlands. It also reflects upon the probability and evidence-based nature of threats while highlighting lesser-known areas of concern.

5️⃣ How has intelligence adapted to the ever-changing threat of terrorism? How crucial of a role does ‘warning’ play in countering and mitigating this threat? To better understand warning’s capabilities and limitations, as well as the nature of intelligence, take a look at this chapter from our Handbook of Terrorism Prevention and Preparedness by Kenneth A. Duncan.

6️⃣Want to gain a better understanding of the ways in which terrorists use technology? Take a look at our project Global Network on Extremism and Technology (GNET). The GNET Project is an academic research initiative backed by the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), an independent but industry-funded initiative for better understanding, and counteracting, terrorist use of technology.