19 to 20 July 2017 marked the solid collaboration between Malaysia and Australia under the ambit of ASEAN Regional Forum whereby SEARCCT had joined forces with ASEAN Malaysian National Secretariat (AMNS) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Australia to organize the ARF Countering On-Line Extremist Messaging Workshop in Kuala Lumpur. The two day programme was successfully attended by 72 senior level participants from ARF member countries and 1 observer from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Dato’ Azmil Zabidi, Director General of SEARCCT and Ms. Angela Macdonald, Acting High Commissioner of Australia officiated the workshop. In their opening remarks, both highlighted the alarming issue of increasing exploitation of the internet by terrorists, including the spread of terrorist’s propaganda for recruitment purposes that lead to the need for a holistic approach in countering online extremist messaging. The Director General of SEARCCT and Ms. MacDonald also highlighted the importance of engaging the civil society and fostering links with companies which host social media platforms, in order to enhance the capabilities of Governments in dealing with the threat of online extremist messaging.
A variety of topics discussed by the experts throughout the seven sessions of the workshop were namely On-line recruitment and radicalisation – global trends, challenges, and responses by Ms Jessie Francescon, Hedayah and Mr Remy Mahzam from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies). Mr Thomas Samuel of SEARCCT, Ms Anna Sherburn from the Australian Attorney-General’s Department and Dr John Hardy from Charles Sturt University presented on The Country case studies: ASEAN Member States and ARF Dialogue Partners which touched on tactics by terrorist organisations and emerging trends in online terrorist propaganda in the region and the challenges faced by CVE policy makers and practitioners in developing responses. The 3 speakers also discussed on the Case studies of best practice responses to
Counter online radicalization. Other interesting topic were, Countering Extremist Messaging On-Line: Perspectives From Digital Industry whereby representative form the social media giants such as Facebook, Google and Twitter collaborated in delivering their take of the issue. Perspectives From
Civil Society and Communities in Challenging Extremist Messaging was the topic of the final session. Renown speakers such as Ms Amina Rasul from the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy, Mr Musa Mohamad Sanguila from Pakigdait Incorporated, Mr Don Pathan from the Patani Forum and Mr Pancho Lara of International Alert) all participated actively in this session.
The interesting session of the workshop was the Table Top Exercise (TTX) entitled Operation New Hope, whereby participants were introduced to a real time scenarios and they were expected to formulate new recommendations for Governments to deal with online extremist messaging threats. The session was moderated and facilitated by SEARCCT and Australia Attorney General’s office to create an environment of free flow ideas and intellectual discourse. This is to allow participants to exchange professional views and opinions on the recommendations which was presented by each groups at the end of the session.
Evidently, the ARF workshop provided an avenue for participants to understand and learn the best practices applied by other ARF countries. This would then enabled participants to provide recommendations that could be implemented in their respective governments. It also provided an opportunity for participants to network with giants of the digital industry. Based on the positive feedbacks received, participants felt responsible to add value to the existing efforts of countering extremist online messaging and more committed to explore new solutions to the problems.
The success of the workshop would not be possible without the close cooperation from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Australia and the ASEAN Malaysian National Secretariat (AMNS), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia.
SEARCCT will be involved with another high level programme in October 2017, stay tuned!