On 26 August, the French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve announced in an interview that “90 percent of those drifting into terrorism do it on the Internet”. It is not the first time that Cazeneuve mentioned this figure – he used the same statistics already on numerous occasions, mainly to defend measures contained in the controversial law on intelligence “Loi Renseignement” (often referred to as the “French Patriot Act”), adopted on 24 June 2015.
The “90 percent” comes from the report “The Metamorphosis brought about in young people by new terrorist discourses” by a Paris-based Centre of Prevention of Sectarian Derivatives linked to Islam (CPDSI). The report is based on interviews with only 160 families affected by Islamist extremism. This can hardly be considered a representative statistical sample, not only because of the low number of interviewees, but also because the families interviewed were chosen among ones who actively contacted the CPDSI via a phone number offering support to families who feared that a member was being radicalised. Even more worrying than the tiny sample size is, of course, that the respondents were answering questions about influences that were exercised on somebody else – their family member. The “statistic” is therefore devoid of credibility, despite its political effectiveness.
Without any doubt, jihadist networks use the Internet in order to get organised, and social networks offer a convenient platform to distribute propaganda and to keep in touch with supporters. However, many experts agree that videos distributed through social media play a minimal role in the recruitment process for jihadists. “The idea that by watching a video, someone suddenly decides to leave for Syria doesn’t correspond to the reality. Rather, it’s groups of young people who gather in a mosque or a kebab restaurant and become radicalised together,” explained Peter Neumann, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR).
The recent attacks in France and Belgium were, according to the investigations of the French intelligence services, police and gendarmerie, committed by terrorists who were not radicalised online.
Terrorists behind the attacks in France are not radicalised “online” (only in French, 26.08.2015)
CPDSI: The Metamorphosis brought about in young people by new terrorist discourses (only in French)
New Trends in Youth Radicalisation (09.12.2014)
Web and terrorism: When Bernard Cazeneuve drifts into 100% (only in French, 20.02.2015)