Counter Terrorism in the Technological Age

Written by Aviv Baavur
July 14, 2021
- 3 min. read
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The Middle East has long been a dynamic region, to put it lightly, in which conflict and terrorism strike often and aggressively. Israel, a strategic territory in the Middle East, has been a focal point for various disputes and turf wars even before it became an official country, leading it to develop an unfortunate field of expertise – countering terrorism. Routinely neutralising and surviving acts of terrorism, it has developed an array of counter terrorism methods and techniques. Other countries around the world have also experienced waves of terrorist attacks, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and Syria receiving the four highest Global Terrorism Index scores in 2020, but none has produced more effective methods and prevention techniques to counter terrorism than Israel.

However, several events in modern history turned terrorism from a local problem, unique to some areas of the world, to a global concern that required urgent solutions. A significant breaking point was September 11, 2001, when terrorism reached the leader of the free world, the USA, destroying a significant commercial and cultural hub, severely damaging American morale, and ruining countless lives. September 11 was a turning point in how the world viewed terrorism, making even the world’s superpowers realise it was no longer a third-world problem but a quickly escalating international crisis.

Since reaching that realisation, governments around the world developed anti-terrorism strategies on multiple levels:

  • Legislation – countries like Canada, the Philippines and the US introduced anti-terror bills and laws. Although controversial in terms of the political compass and civil rights, the new regulations have successfully prevented terror attacks.
  • Finances – withdrawing funds that might be used for funding groups or organisations involved in terrorism directly or vicariously.
  • Social influence – leaders have become more aware and in control of social processes within civilian populations and began monitoring them up-close, realising that terror organisations often target those populations when recruiting new members (e.g. ISIS). Subsequently, in an effort to assist member states in defending their communities and contribute to peace and security, the UN founded the UNCCT (UN Center of Counter Terrorism) and the UNOCT (UN Office of Counter Terrorism), both dedicated to promoting international cooperation and fighting against terrorism, bringing the global effort to eradicate terrorism to a full circle.

 

The New Terrorist on the Block

With world leaders taking charge of national security and working to dismantle terrorist groups, order seemed to be reinstated. But technology’s significant advancements in recent years were exploited by extremists for creating cyber terrorism and utilising innovative weapon systems. The technological age has benefited terrorists, who are no longer limited to real-life attacks and can now attack the public on various platforms, have access to more information and technologies online and are harder to track. In addition, they can impact more people through social media, spread false information, and gain resources that would later be used for terrorism purposes.

Israel has recently faced new terrorism tactics: “TikTok Terror”, a social media trend encouraging Arabs to attack visibly Jewish Israelis and Jewish symbols, record the attack, and post the video on the popular app. The phenomenon is taken with utmost seriousness by law enforcement, though not everyone agrees on labelling it as “terrorism”; incendiary balloons from Gaza, launched by Palestinians linked to Hamas and other terror groups. Though technologically unadvanced, the method is highly effective, causing fires and significant damage, mostly in agriculture. Israel, highly experienced in dealing with ongoing terror attacks, has clear protocols for such events that mainly include prevention – collecting intelligence and deploying police and technology such as the Iron Dome in volatile areas for fast response.

As new methods for inflicting terror and violence on civilian population are created and spread, counterterrorism professionals must keep one step ahead. This new aspect of terrorism requires world leaders to change their mindset and approach towards counter terror strategies, develop new methods and technologies to battle modern terrorism, and gain back their social impact on the public and deter extremists.