Social media platforms turning into ‘toolkit’ of terror groups: Jaishankar
New Delhi: India on Saturday cautioned the world about the possible implications of misuse of new technologies such as encrypted messaging and crypto-currency by “non-state actors” in absence of adequate regulatory mechanism with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar seeking united global efforts to deal with the challenge.
In an address at a special meeting of the UN Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), Jaishankar said the social media platforms have turned into potent instruments in the “toolkit” of terror networks and that the terror groups, their “ideological fellow-travellers” and “lone wolf” attackers have significantly enhanced capabilities by gaining access to new technologies.
Reaffirming India’s commitment to combat terrorism, he also announced that New Delhi would make a voluntary contribution of half a million dollars in the UN Trust Fund for Counter-Terrorism this year.
The external affairs minister also said the counter-terror sanction regime of the United Nations has been effective to put countries on notice that turned terrorism into a “state-funded enterprise”, seen as an apparent reference to Pakistan.
Representatives from all 15 member nations of the UN Security Council attended the second and final day’s meeting in Delhi on Saturday, a day after the first day’s events in Mumbai.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in message to the meet, called for concerted global efforts to deal with the challenge of the use of new technologies by various terror groups.
“Terrorists and others posing hateful ideologies are abusing new and emerging technologies to spread disinformation, foment discord, recruit and radicalise (people), mobilise resources and execute attacks,” he said in his message that was read out at the meeting.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the international community must work together to “starve” terrorists of the finance and emerging technologies”.
In his remarks, Jaishankar said the technological innovations of the past two decades have been transformative in the way the world functions and the new and emerging technologies — from virtual private networks, and encrypted messaging services to blockchain and virtual currencies — are offering a very promising future in the economic and social sectors.
However, he said there is a flip side to it, especially where terrorism is concerned.
“These very technologies have also thrown up new challenges for the governments and regulatory bodies due to their potential vulnerability for misuse by non-state actors, given the very nature of some of these technologies and the nascent regulatory environment,” Jaishankar said.
“In recent years, terrorist groups, their ideological fellow-travellers, particularly in open and liberal societies and ‘lone wolf’ attackers have significantly enhanced their capabilities by gaining access to these technologies,” he added.
The external affairs minister said these forces use technology and money, and most importantly the ethos of open societies, to attack freedom, tolerance and progress.
“Internet and social media platforms have turned into potent instruments in the toolkit of terrorist and militant groups for spreading propaganda, radicalisation and conspiracy theories aimed at destabilising societies,” he said.
“Another add-on to the existing worries for governments around the world is the use of unmanned aerial systems by terrorist groups and organised criminal networks,” he said.
Jaishankar noted that the “misuse” of these unmanned aerial platforms for nefarious purposes by terrorist groups such as delivery of weapons and explosives and to carry out targeted attacks have become an “imminent danger”.
“They are, therefore, a challenge for security agencies worldwide. The possibilities of using weaponised drones for terrorist purposes against strategic, infrastructure and commercial assets call for serious attention by the member states,” he said.
It is for the first time that the UN Security Council is holding a meeting, in any format, in India.
Describing terrorism as “one of the gravest threats” to humanity, Jaishankar said the UN Security Council, in the past two decades, has evolved an important architecture, built primarily around the counter-terrorism sanctions regime, to combat the menace.
“This has been very effective in putting those countries on notice that had turned terrorism into a state-funded enterprise,” he said.
“Despite this, the threat of terrorism is only growing and expanding, particularly in Asia and Africa, as successive reports of the 1267 Sanctions Committee Monitoring Reports have highlighted,” he said.
The external affairs minister said holding of the special meeting by the UN Security Council in India is also the product of the fact that counter-terrorism has become one of the top priorities during New Delhi’s ongoing tenure in the top body.
Jaishankar called for focused discussion at the Counter-Terrorism Committee to stop the misuse of new and emerging technologies by terror groups.
He also referred to the use of technology by the terror networks that carried out the 26/11 Mumbai attack.
“Our experience showed us how a benign technology of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) could be used for organising and directing such a barbaric terrorist attack from beyond our borders,” he said.
“More recently, these terrorist groups have been using unmanned aerial platforms, such as drones and quadcopters for cross-border trafficking of drugs and arms and for carrying out terrorist attacks,” he noted.
The external affairs minister cautioned that such risks are not just limited to India.
He said drones have been used by terror groups to monitor the movements of security forces and even UN peacekeepers in Africa.
“A few months ago, terrorists launched cross-border drone attacks on the UAE and Saudi Arabia targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, which led to the loss of lives and injuries, including to Indian nationals there,” he said.
India’s Permanent Representative to UN Ruchira Kamboj said the new and emerging technologies have helped fuel economic growth but they have also thrown up challenges which need the attention of the international community.
Kamboj chaired the meeting.
She said the use of new technology to carry out terrorist activities is increasing.
“The use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes is increasing, diversifying and evolving as varied technologies become cheaper and more readily available,” she said.
Besides representatives of UN Security Council member countries, the meeting is being attended by global experts and relevant global agencies.