Containing ISIS in the ‘Dark Web’
Internet has not produced groups such as ISIS even though it has become a major tool in spreading their ideologies
When I read Jared Cohen, the Google head of ideas, saying that ISIS needs to be pushed off the public view and “contained to the dark web” my first thought was that he was just being metaphorical.
However, following a brief online search, I realized that the term “dark web” is commonly used to refer to a parallel online market where one can anonymously and illegally attain arms and drugs. This segment has grown to the extent that governments now claim they are incapable of controlling it.
Internet has not produced groups such as ISIS even though it has become a major tool in spreading their ideologiesDiana Moukalled
In effect, Cohen said we must push ISIS off the internet and social networking websites and force it into mysterious domain described as the dark web. But what do digital experts mean when they say “we have to force” ISIS and its supporters into unknown spaces?
Or what does it mean to concede that there is a dark space for arms and drug dealers, terrorists and criminals toward which we must force all evildoers? Is it safe to create differentiations between open and dark web?
There is a parallel space which allows evil people to operate while we delude ourselves into believing that they don’t exist. This reminds me of the underground culture with two parallel worlds that deny each other’s existence.
Such a dark space is developing and no longer have complicated digital keys. Just a little electronic wit can allow one access to these worlds where organized terrorism is not the only menace. There are still no answers to all these questions and perhaps some parties don’t want to engage much in this matter.
We are not talking here about clear distinctions between good and evil but about states, interests and intelligence apparatuses. There’s ambiguity over who secretly supports evil and who says they are struggling against it. I am not only referring to ISIS here but also to these unknown groups who have become influential in illegal quarters.
It is pertinent to question what technology tycoons can do besides shutting down websites and social networking pages suspected of being related to terrorism. This applies to internet companies as well as social networking websites, which are both of immense significance for the propaganda being carried out by ISIS and other extremist groups.
Those in charge of social media platforms have been incapable of balancing between our need for free space and the ability of ISIS and other extremist groups to exploit it.
What raises suspicion is how several governments and security apparatuses tend to hold the internet and social networking websites directly and solely responsible for the spread of these groups while also claiming that these tools are the means to confront them.
Parallel web space allows evil people to operate while we delude ourselves into believing that they don’t existDiana Moukalled
This also raises questions about the intentions of governments and parties who claim to be fighting against ISIS. The internet has not produced groups such as ISIS even though it has become a major tool in spreading their ideologies. Social networking platforms and the internet are not responsible for the ideology in itself.
ISIS sneaks into the western and Arab communities through their weak points which were not created by electronic space. Containing them in the “dark web” is not the way to confront ISIS. It solidifies a parallel world which we think is far away when in fact it’s close to our lives.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Jan. 25, 2016.
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.