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The Secretary General of United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-Moon has suggested in his Plan of Action to Prevent Extremism (May, 2015) to “Encourage more research on the relationship between the misuse of the Internet and social media by violent extremists and the factors that drive individuals towards violent extremism.” Terrorist groups have led a global social media campaign to take their cause to every computer and mobile phone. With the growing concern about online radicalization and the noticeable increase in openly extremist groups in Europe, more and more Member States are facing threats from radicalization of youth. Throughout the EU, the risk of radicalization leading to extremist violence is growing. Since the start of the conflict in Syria, in 2011, thousands of foreign fighters have travelled from Western Europe to fight in Syria and Iraq. The Internet has played a significant role in the radicalization and recruitment of foreign fighters and continues to do so. Many reports confirm the importance of social networks as a tool used by ISIS to recruit young people. Social networking is the main activity young people aged 16-24 use the internet for, something which extremist groups are well aware of. This is why they are using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to draw young people to their cause. There is a wealth of Islamic extremist material available online including; articles, images, videos encouraging hate or violence, posts on social media, websites created by terrorist organizations, terrorist training materials and videos glorifying war and violence.

The challenge for governments and youth organizations is to understand the range of factors in which social media may play a role in this, so that responses are not misplaced or based on unsupported assumptions. On this basis, it may be possible to identify appropriate steps to counter radicalization activity online and to ensure appropriate response to the threat. This points to the need to prepare youth workers, to utilize on-line engagement and leverage ICT and digital networks as a pillar for building peace and preventing youth radicalization.

Our main objective with this project is to provide youth workers all the necessary knowledge and tools to help young people develop their critical thinking skills as many of them are exposed to radical propaganda and often make an improper use of internet. Youth workers will be able to provide positive online counter-narratives, recognizing online negative messages and encourage intercultural dialogue and personal exchanges between young people as a key method of building resilience to extremist propaganda.

We will pursue two lines of actions to tackle the growing radicalization of youth throughout Europe. In the first line, we will design and realize an e-learning training programme (IO1) to help youth workers harness the potential of digital media tools and to recognize and interpret signs of radicalization, to promote the creation of online counter-narratives, and to make available easily accessible alternative messages that stimulate critical thinking.

The second line, we will develop a digital guide of best practice (IO2) which will include expertise in the field of preventing radicalization, all the exchange of information and ideas amongst the partners of the project, strategies and suggestions on how to face online radicalization, and how youth workers should encourage critical thinking amongst young people about extremist messages.

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