04.07.2021

Countering Terrorism Online with Artificial Intelligence

The integration of digital technologies into everyday life has increased at an extraordinary pace in South Asia and South-East Asia in recent years, with the use of social media by the regions’ notably young population surpassing the global average. While this trend offers a wide range of opportunities for development, the freedom of expression, political participation, and civic action, it also increases the risk of potentially vulnerable youths being exposed to terrorist online content produced by terrorist and violent extremist groups online. Additionally, given an established terrorist and violent extremist presence in South Asia and South-East Asia, law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies in these regions are increasingly pressed to adapt to transformations in criminal and terrorist activities, as well as to how investigations into these activities are carried out.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has received considerable attention globally as a tool that can process vast quantities of data and discover patterns and correlations in the data unseen to the human eye, which can enhance effectiveness and efficiency in the analysis of complex information. As a general-purpose technology, such benefits can also be leveraged in the field of counter-terrorism. In light of this, there is growing interest amongst law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies globally in exploring how the transformative potential of AI can be unlocked.

Considering the aforementioned trends and developments, this report serves as an introduction to the use of AI to counter terrorism online for law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies in the regions of South Asia and South-East Asia. Through the present report – a product of the partnership between the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre in the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute through its Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics – we seek to explore how AI can be used to combat the threat of terrorism online.

This report is introductory in nature as a result of the limited publicly available information on the degree of technological readiness of law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies in these regions, which is considered likely to be indicative of limited experience with this technology. In this regard, the report provides a broad assessment of different use cases of AI, demonstrating the opportunities of the technology, as well as curbing out the challenges.

The report is intended to serve as an initial mapping of AI, contextualizing possible use cases of the technology that could theoretically be deployed in the regions, whilst juxtaposing this with the key challenges that authorities must overcome to ensure the use of AI is responsible and human rights compliant. Give its introductory nature, this report is by no means intended to be an exhaustive overview of the application of AI to counter-terrorism online.

View and download joint UNICRI and UNCCT report

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