Bad actors are winning the online battle. It is time for the majority good actors to step up

News flash! The Internet is not always used for good! What are we going to do about it????

I don’t suppose these headlines strike anyone as real ‘news’, do they? We have long known that any technology can be leveraged for good or for bad (dynamite was developed by Alfred Nobel – yes, he of the prize fame – for mining operations and soon became one of the weapons of choice for the first wave of terrorism, the anarchist wave, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries). So no one should be surprised that terrorists have ‘taken over’ the Internet.

Examples of this are unfortunately far too many to count but here is a short recent list of stories underscoring this:

I think you get the point.

So, what to do? Who gets to decide? Companies like FaceBook and YouTube claim to be exerting every effort to get this crap off their platforms but they are clearly not doing it very well (in fairness there is a lot out there that should be removed and there are freedom of speech issues, but they could do a lot better). What about states? What is their role? Judging by two recent examples, allowing governments to dictate what is online and what is not doesn’t look like a good solution. In fact, some states will just ban the Internet as Myanmar and Sudan have just done. Of course they will just say that this is temporary until ‘things settle down’ but is it really this or an attempt to stifle opposition and hide state violence?

Is all woe and despair? Maybe not. I think we are missing something. Let me explain.

Let’s assume that there are more good people than bad people. This is a safe assumption methinks. Let us also assume that there are even fewer terrorists and violent extremists. Ok, so where does that leave us? Quite simply it means that we the good vastly outnumber those the bad. So where are all those good voices? It is sometimes said that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Why are the good people “doing nothing”?

The advantage is actually ours. We not only outnumber them but our messages and our worldviews are vastly superior than theirs. We can use the same technologies and the same platforms the bad guys do to tell our own stories. We should do precisely that and do it often. We can swamp the malicious actors with better ideas and better suggestions. And because this is so easy to do – hey even an old fart like me can do it – there is no reason not to. Are you up to the task?

Let’s not allow ourselves be the ‘good person who does nothing’. Let’s put the terrorists and the violent extremists in the garbage dumpsters where they belong! Post, comment, blog, podcast to as much as possible! Let’s win the battles for hearts and minds and send violent messaging to the darker corners where it is harder to find and will thus effect fewer people (yes this is not a perfect solution but it sure beats shutting down the Internet). We can do this people!

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

Leave a Reply