“The world has become a village” is a phrase you can hear in almost every conversation regarding the advancements in technology, communication and information distribution. It is without question that the “world becoming smaller” has brought on a lot of unprecedented changes, some good some bad. It is without question though, that the internet has played a major role in the recruitment of young Kenyan youth into violent extremist groups such as the Al Shabaab.
Through information gathered by security agencies, it has become clear that most of the returnees first came into contact with the violent extremist groups’ content online and on further engagement were baited into pledging allegiance to the groups and abandoning all that is sane to follow their ridiculous ideologies. One would assume an educated individual would know better but history has proven us wrong time and time again. The purported link between social media and youth violence isn’t a new phenomenon.
It has been found that an increased number of hours on social media correlates directly with aggressive behavior. The youth tend to learn from what they see around them or who they are around. Thus being continually exposed to media-induced violence can result in a behavior where they would likely use violence to solve their everyday problems. Social media acts as a tool to connect with and build relationships with people around the world.
It can also be used to maintain personal relationships with friends as well as to express personal opinions on important issues. Of course, there are underlying issues at play, driving the youth to ally themselves to an extremist group but the media is a key gateway in this uncontrolled access to our youth. As such we’ve seen most major social media networks regulating the kind of content posted on their platforms and even encouraging the reporting of malicious and inappropriate content. Facebook has since the Christchurch March 15th attack on a mosque instituted a couple of regulations to ensure violent extremists don’t take advantage of their platform to spread hateful content. Ultimately, jihadist terrorism will fade only when the terrorists’ ideas are discredited. Making their messages harder to access may reduce the number of new recruits.