Hace unas semanas, un informe sobre el impacto de las redes sociales en la salud mental de los niños británicos me llamó la atención. En una encuesta realizada a 1,500 jóvenes de todo el Reino Unido, la Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) exploró cómo las plataformas como Instagram, Snapchat y Facebook alimentaban la ansiedad, la depresión y la falta de sueño de los niños.
“Los jóvenes que pasan más de dos horas al día en redes sociales como Facebook, Twitter o Instagram son más propensos a sufrir problemas de salud mental, sobre todo angustia y síntomas de ansiedad y depresión”, informa el estudio realizado por la Royal Society of Public Healt y la Universidad de Cambridge.
Mr Arshad is one of a growing group of digital media stars who use YouTube videos, Facebook posts, tweets, photos and standup comedy to counter the barrage of extremist propaganda online — particularly from social media-savvy terrorist groups such as Isis. His YouTube series, which tackles issues facing Muslim youth in London, has been watched more than 73m times. One video, “I’m a Muslim, not a terrorist” has been screened in more than 100 schools around the UK by the police.
Another Briton had died in Syria, and back in London investigators were busy “scraping” through his online peer network for clues about fellow Islamic State (Isis) foot soldiers.
It was little surprise that Rhonan Malik knew two Canadian brothers, Gregory and Collin Gordon. After all, Twitter rumours suggested that all three had been killed in the same December air strike. More intriguing was the prodigious Facebookpresence of Collin Gordon which indicated that, shortly before becoming a jihadist, he had been “quite the party boy”.
On a labyrinthine upper floor of King’s College London is the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR), the first global initiative of its type, whose offices are frequently contacted by counter-terrorism officers, hungry for information on the continuing flow of Britons to the ranks of Isis.
At 4.30pm on Thursday the centre’s researchers were assiduously examining social media “accounts of value”, noting the ongoing ripples of jubilation following the Charlie Hebdo and Paris attacks. A pseudonymous jihadist from Manchester, Abu QaQa, had said that the shootings had persuaded Isis and al-Qaida supporters to bury their differences.
“He’s saying we should be happy that jihad was made against the crusaders. It doesn’t matter that AQ and IS have been fighting each other – if it brings attacks against the west he’ll support it,” said Joseph Carter, research fellow at the ICSR.
So far the centre’s database has amassed profiles of about 700 western foreign fighters who have joined either Isis or groups such as al-Qaida’s Syrian offshoot, the al-Nusra Front. Each individual is categorised according to 72 data points, such as their birthplace or previous employment. At one point the database held the particulars of up to 90 Britons, a figure that has dwindled to around 50, largely as a consequence of coalition air strikes against Isis positions – Malik is believed to be at least the 35th Briton killed in Syria during 2014 – while a handful have simply vanished without trace from social media.