Social media misused to spread extremism, security experts say

Speakers at tolerance conference urge individuals to use their smart gadgets and social media accounts responsibly

From left: Col. Dr. Ahmed Al mansoori, moderator, Dr. Sultan Al Nuaimi, Dr. Fernando Rivas Ausocua, and Mohammad Al Hammadi, are seen talking at the 1st session on Responsible Media Towards the Restoration of the Speech of Tolerance at ADNEC.

Abu Dhabi: Extremists misuse social media platforms to spread false ideologies and hatred, which go against the true message of Islam, security experts said in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

They were speaking at a conference on ‘Tolerance, Moderation and Dialogue in Countering Terrorism’ organised by the Ministry of Interior at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

The two-day conference, which ended on Tuesday, was held under the patronage of Lt-General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior.

Media today is one of the strongest tools used by terrorist groups to “pollute” young minds and recruit them, experts said.

As such, a huge responsibility lies on all media organisations and operators of social media sites to cross-examine the content before making it public, experts added.

At the event, a large number of scholars, religious leaders and security experts gathered to exchange their views on countering extremism in the world.

Fernando Rivas from the strategy department of Intelligence Centre for Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime at Spain’s interior ministry said: “These terror organisations network and use social media platforms to execute their attacks, this is what we experienced in Spain.

“From our experience in Spain, we have learnt that we should stop the dissemination of terrorists’ messages through the social media networks, internet and block them from spreading ill ideologies among people to radicalise [them].”

Governments must communicate effectively with people to explain the motives of extremist groups and their misinformation, which propagates hatred and fake ideologies among people.

Spain has created an observatory called “Islamophobia” to spread positive and correct messages about Islam among society, through civilian groups and Arab quarters of Spain, he said.

“We work together at the ministry to dispel wrong notions and promote positivity in the society.”

The role of print and electronic media is key to promote government’s initiatives and spread awareness among the society to prevent people from getting “trapped” by radical groups, Rivas said.

He added that fake news and theories are served on a platter everyday on these sites, and the media needs to clarify to the people what is right and wrong.

Role of individuals

Along with media, individuals are also responsible to correct the society by spreading only right messages.

Dr Sultan Al Nuaimi, associate professor and academic researcher, said: “When an individual receives a message, if he/she understands that it follows a certain destructive ideology, he should not forward it to others.”

The UAE has tough rules to combat propagation of wrong ideologies through social media sites but individuals also have a part to play. Stricter media rules doesn’t mean to encroach on or snatch the freedom of individuals, he said.

“There is no meaning to an individual’s freedom if he becomes a threatening element or part of the destruction of a nation,” Al Nuaimi said.

Such freedoms are not beyond the welfare and security of the country, Al Nuaimi said.

Mohammad Al Hammadi, editor-in-chief of National Geographic Al Arabiya magazine, said he felt sorry to state that electronic media in the Arab world was exploited to be part of promoting fake ideologies and messages about Islam.

“Islam never teaches rejection of others, violence and killing of people. But with extreme sadness, I would like to say that media were compromised in the region and they propagated wrong messages, which severely defamed the name of Islam and harmed its followers,” Al Hammadi said.

“Today we want to correct these wrong ideologies through media,” Al Hammadi said.

The responsibility lies with all to only spread positive, true and right messages to the society through their smart phones to make a better and peaceful society, he said.

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