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Lone-Actor Terrorism Policy Paper 3: Motivations, Political Engagement and Online Activity

Melanie Smith, Sabine Barton and Jonathan Birdwell
Other Publications, 29 February 2016
UK Counter-terrorism, Lone-Actor Terrorism, National Security and Resilience Studies, International Security Studies, Domestic Security, Terrorism
This third policy paper of the Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism series examines variations in the political engagement and online activity of lone-actor terrorists, and provides recommendations for policy-makers, police and social media companies

Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism Series: No. 7

The aim of the Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism (CLAT) project is to understand lone-actor terrorism in a European context. The project will develop a database of lone-actor cases from across Europe. Its overall objective is to see if it is possible to discern any trends or patterns that could be translated into useful observations or recommendations for practitioners and policy-makers.

This is the third of four policy papers in the CLAT series and is published by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. Preventing every single instance of lone-actor terrorism is impossible. This is particularly true in countries where freedom of thought, speech and privacy are highly valued and must be protected. The recommendations stemming from this paper's analysis provide practical suggestions for preventing instances of lone-actor terrorism – based on findings relating to motivations, political engagement and online activity – that adhere to these principles.

About the Authors

Jonathan Birdwell is Head of Policy and Research at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). Jonathan leads ISD’s research and policy strategy, policy reports and policy maker networks, including the Policy Planner’s Network, the Strong Cities Network, and the educational film series, Extreme Dialogue. Prior to joining ISD, Jonathan was based at the think tank Demos, where he authored reports on the relationship between non-violent radicals and violent extremists, and online supporters of far-right xenophobic political parties and street-based movements.

Melanie Smith is a Researcher and Coordinator at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. Her research investigates the involvement of women in violent extremist activity, as well as the role of social media in terrorist movements. Melanie is also a Research Fellow at ICSR at King’s College London, where she cultivated the largest known database of Western women who have migrated to ISIS territory.

Sabine Barton is the Strong Cities Network (SCN) Programme Associate at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. The SCN is the first global network of cities working together to build resilience and social cohesion to prevent violent extremism in all its forms. As the SCN Associate, Sabine conducts research and analysis on local CVE and prevention strategies and works with SCN member cities to support their involvement in the network.

About the Project

The Countering Lone-Actor Terrorism (CLAT) project is co-funded by the Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme of the European Union, and has been undertaken by a RUSI-led consortium. Partnering institutions include Chatham House, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) and Leiden University, one of the founding organisations of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) at The Hague.

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