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Lecture ‘Is There a Language of Terrorists?’ by Julia Ebner

Datum evenement: 16 May 2024
Locatie: Hybrid: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Zoom


Practical details and registration:
Time: 15:30 PM CET
Registration: To register (and receive the location or zoom link) send an email to extremebeliefs.fgw@vu.nl


Security experts have warned that both mainstream and fringe cyberspaces (so-called alt-tech platforms) have turned into hotbeds for viral hate and the inspiration of violence. This has often left security services overwhelmed with the sheer amount of potential threats to national security. Yet, not everyone who makes explicit threats of violence will translate their words into action. Likewise, not everyone who will commit an act of extreme violence threatens to do so beforehand. Some will even intentionally scratch the boundaries of legality by using the rhetorical weapon of satire, leading intelligence officers into a tricky security-versus-freedom dilemma. Judgement on whether a user who engages in “shitposting” constitutes a risk to violence can be difficult; yet the stakes are high. The intersection of satire and hate has escalated in a new phenomenon of political violence: gamified terrorism. As we have been able to observe the growing relationship between trolling and terrorism, traditional counter-terrorism mechanisms have become increasingly unhelpful in assessing and dealing with this emerging threat. Based on her research, Dr Julia Ebner will give insights into psycholinguistic patterns of radicalisation across different ideologies. Throughout the seminar, she will ask: Can would-be perpetrators of extreme violence be reliably identified by the linguistic traces they unintentionally leave behind in their online communications? What are the methodological, technical and ethical challenges relating to researching extremism online and to developing threat detection tools?