Terrorism remains a serious and persistent threat, with counter-ideology efforts and the need to foster cross-cultural understanding remaining key priorities to society. To this end, the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) and the Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore, jointly organised a webinar on “Countering Extremist Content: Promoting Positive Narratives Online” on 25 March 2022.
Bringing together more than 100 participants from various governments, the academia, social media companies, and community and religious organisations, the day-long event featured nine expert speakers who delved into the latest trends, developments and challenges in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) in the virtual domain.
The need to move beyond a singular focus on counter-ideology to encompass positive and alternative narratives was a major theme of the discussion. Such a realisation would engender a more holistic and effective response to online radicalisation. Speakers also underscored the importance of calibrating communication strategies when engaging different groups and demographics. The use of humour as a potential P/CVE tool was especially scrutinised, with general consensus that humour could cause offence and backfire or underplay the severity of radical ideology if not used judiciously and in the right context.
Other issues explored by the speakers included the imperative to involve youth in P/CVE initiatives, both as target audience and content creators; the merits of face-to-face engagement vis-à-vis social media interaction in P/CVE activities; the challenges in measuring the impact of counter-narratives; and the feasibility of a region-wide approach to countering extremist content online. With regard to the latter, it was observed that a regional P/CVE framework could be constructive in tackling universal violent extremist narratives. However, the localisation of specific messages and programmes (e.g. sports, art and culture, technology etc.) would help to maximise efficacy.
Concluding the webinar was a lively roundtable session moderated by ICPVTR Head Associate Professor Dr Kumar Ramakrishna. Panellists had the opportunity to share their final thoughts and discuss their takeaways from the event.