BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Security agencies need to collaborate with tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter to help stem the spread of extremist content on social media. 

The proliferation of social media accounts spreading propaganda to radicalise and recruit new members has been rapid, said Nur Azlin Mohamed Yasin, an associate research fellow at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

Speaking at 11th East Asia Security Outlook Seminar held at Brunei’s Ministry of Defence on Wednesday, the academic said the sheer volume of “noise” on the Internet made it difficult to sift through information and take down extremist content. 

“We have trouble finding information among the huge amount of noise that we see online. It is imperative for us to work with Facebook, Twitter and social media counterparts to make sure we are able to tackle these challenges,” she said.

Nur Azlin added that extremists are fast to adapt and switch tactics, using code words to avoid detection by online moderators.

“We’ve talked about how the lexicon and keywords keeps changing — they change the way they spell things, change the way they use their profile pictures or their names. So different agencies need to update each other.

“As new technology platforms come in, they also need to be updated on these developments as well, so that the terrorists won’t just jump from one platform to another, and we just continue to play catch up with them.”

A member of the audience poses a question to speakers at the 11th East Asia Security Outlook Seminar held at Brunei’s Ministry of Defence on Nov 13, 2018. Photo: Courtesy of MinDef

In the past year, Brunei authorities have detained one local man for suspected links to ISIS, and also deported four Indonesian nationals for links to terror suspects and possession of ISIS propaganda.

The Internal Security Act gives the State broad powers to detain individuals for up to two years without trial, in order to prevent anyone “acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Brunei Darussalam”.

In 2016, ISIS published the first edition of its Malay-language newspaper online in an attempt to gain a wider audience in Southeast Asia.

The one-day East Asia Security Outlook Seminar was organised by the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies.