Posted on 25/11/2016
Dr Akil Awan from Royal Holloway's Department of History has appeared in front of a House of Lords inquiry to give evidence on young people's political use of the Internet. Dr Awan is a renowned expert in political violence and terrorism, and is currently researching how and why people can become radicalised.
Radicalisation is within children’s real worlds
Dr Awan was advising the committee on the likelihoods, risks and potential for children and young people to be radicalised online. He told the committee that, while the internet can certainly be involved in radicalising people, it is by no means the only risk factor for young people.
"The idea of online radicalisation as being the most important issue facing us has largely been debunked in academia; there aren't any real cases of completely autonomous online radicalisation. Children live in real worlds. In online and offline worlds simultaneously, so it's a bit like pathologising the internet [to say it's responsible for radicalising children]."
He added later, "Typically, a crime needs both motive and means, and the means essentially have become easier, in the sense that there a whole swathe of DIY manuals and all sorts of instructions on the internet. This has allowed individuals to go beyond the idea of visiting a training camp or having real-world training. But often [these online resources] are not very good, which is why we haven't seen that many success stories of wannabe-terrorists who are following DIY guides."
In a 'post-truth' world
Along with several other academics from Royal Holloway, Dr Awan also turned his attention to the recent election of Donald Trump, warning the committee that we should be aware about the risks of publishing so-called "fake news" and how this may influence young people. "This is a new problem," he explained, "we weren't talking about this a year ago."
Researching terrorism at Royal Holloway
Dr Akil Awan is Associate Professor of Modern History, Political Violence, and Terrorism in the Department of History. You can find out more about the degrees we offer in the department by looking at our course finder.
Terrorism is explored through modules offered on courses by our History, Law, Politics and International Relations, Comparative Literatures and Cultures, and Geography departments.
Children and the Internet
Dr Awan was speaking to the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications alongside Dr Sarah Marsden from Lancaster University and was taking part into the government's inquiry Children and the Internet.
Several other high-profile companies and individuals have spoken to the inquiry, including representatives from Google, Facebook, the BBC, Ofcom and Sky.