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Since the late 1990s, terrorist groups have become more sophisticated in their use of the internet and ICT. In the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, extremist groups came under increasing pressure to go underground, finding in the internet an ideal channel through which it could continue communications while reaching out to a larger audience, and as a means to seek finance for its activities.

Confronted with the growing threat posed by the Islamic State (IS), concerns regarding terrorist use of ICT and the internet further increased, due in large part to IS’ adeptness in using the technologies and related platforms to groom and recruit foreign fighters and supporters, produce and disseminate propaganda. Such concerns were tabled in the UN Security Council, which urges UN Member States to act cooperatively when taking national measures to prevent terrorists from exploiting technology, communications and resources, including audio and video, to incite support for terrorist acts, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms and in compliance with other obligations under international law. Security Council activity on these matters has increased even further since the Paris attacks of November 2015.

These developments have important implications for the private sector, in particular those companies whose products and services are exploited to advance the goals of terrorist actors. This reality has led to greater engagement by states of the private sector in efforts to combat terrorist use of ICTs, including the creation of public-private partnerships specifically aimed at dealing with the issue. It has also led to the emergence of new practices or norms of self-regulation by companies. New norms and coercive measures such as sanctions aimed at preventing the sale, distribution and use of IT products and services to terrorist groups also bring with them new obligations, with obvious implications for industry.

The cooperation of UN CTED and ICT4Peace has been to deepen the understanding of these developments, particularly how industry is responding to terrorist use of ICTs, identify good practices, notably in the area of self- regulation, and potentially engage industry representatives in shaping a voluntary trust building mechanism such as a code of conduct to help mitigate the use of ICT products and services by terrorist groups. The first meeting to discuss potential cooperation between Governments and Private Sectors was held on 16 and 17 December 2015 at the UN in New York, was organised by the UN CTED in cooperation with and moderated by ICT4Peace (see post here).