Algiers — Algeria may soon impose a ban on jihadist forums and terrorist organisation websites.
A recent report from the Electronic Security Centre within the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS) obtained by Tout sur l'Algerie urges authorities to do more to tackle online extremism.
"Terrorist organisations are using advanced technologies to plan and execute terrorist operations such as the attack carried out last January on the Tiguentourine gas plant at In Amenas in the wilaya of Illizi, chiefly using the internet to communicate," TSA quoted the document as saying on September 21st.
The study, which has been sent to the Algerian government, stressed that "terrorist groups around the world and in Algeria use the internet to provide content about their activities to the various media outlets."
That same document noted that terrorist groups are using the internet on a daily basis to organise and co-ordinate operations around the world, saying, "Jihadist websites appear and disappear, and then quickly reappear in other forms, under new names."
"The media often disseminate the statements and videos published online by terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which is a threat to national security," the report stated.
The government paper explained that "terrorist organisations have managed to recruit new members thanks to the internet."
According to Salim Hamadouche, an expert on security matters, "the internet is the groups' other weapon: a means of contact between them, and a great help in spreading propaganda."
Furthermore, he said, these groups include IT professionals.
Algeria has taken the threat seriously for years, starting with the introduction of a new law in 2009 with special provisions to deal with offences involving the use of information and communication technologies.
According to statistics released by the Director General of National Security, Major-General Abdelghani Hamel, 22 brigades have been mobilised and equipped to fight cybercrime in Algeria. He said virtual crime has changed a great deal, and so have the methods used to deal with it.
"Today we have cyber-policemen, who are highly trained and equipped with the most sophisticated resources, to deal with this scourge and hunt down those behind it," he said.
Preventive measures include a ban on under-18s using internet cafés. "Terrorist propaganda is chiefly targeted at that age group. Adolescents often end up as the victims of jihadist websites and forums," explained Aymen Mendjel, a journalist who specialises in security issues.
To help implement this decision, the commander of the National Gendarmerie has set up eight brigades specialising in the protection of minors, particularly at internet cafés. The brigades are spread across eight wilayas: Algiers, Oran, Constantine, Annaba, Blida, Tiaret, Médéa and Chlef.
They visit internet cafés with the aim of preventing children from accessing the internet and punish owners who go against the regulations. The brigades have been working in the field since 2011.
The call to ban jihadist websites has received a favourable response from young Algerians and their parents.
"These sites glorify death, exclusion and fanaticism," said Mohamed Kosir, a father of two. "This is a real danger to our children. I'd be very relieved if they managed to ban them."
Karim Saber, in his twenties, said that "lots of young people visit these sites, out of curiosity at first, but over time some of them become [convinced] by the messages they contain, often without their parents knowing."
"It's almost impossible to control their offspring's behaviour once they've left the house, so the best thing would be to ban these sites," he added.