HYPER project

The HYPER (How Young People are Engaged by Radicals) project involves 6 partners from 6 countries:

1. Jugendförderverein Parchim/Lübz e.V., project coordinator, (Germany)
2. The Rural Hub, (Ireland)
3. E-Juniors, (France)
4. REINTEGRA, (Czech Republic)
5. Centre for advancement of research and development in educational technology (CARDET), (Cyprus)
6. Lancaster and Morecambe College, (United Kingdom)

Europe faces a real and ongoing threat from violent extremism. A small minority of groups continue to present false arguments and reasoning that seek to justify attacks on innocent civilians. Member States are being urged to take measures to prevent extremist voices and messages reaching those who are most vulnerable to these radical views. There is a perception that those at risk of radicalisation have a low level of education and would generally fit the classification of disadvantaged young people but extensive research indicates that the demographics in relation to religion, age, sex, education and financial backgrounds vary. What has been found is that many become radicalized in response to emotive messages and visuals and through frustration or outrage at perceived injustice or inequality. There is no obvious profile of a person likely to become involved in extremism or a single indicator of when a person might move to adopt violence in support of extremist ideas. Radical extremists have shown a mastery of global communication networks, using the Internet to disseminate graphic videos and electronic magazines to spread anti-establishment rhetoric and volumes of ‘fake news’ items to attract potential sympathizers. On social media, extremists echo these messages and reach out to the curious and impressionable. Facebook has 1.3 billion active accounts and is used by extremists to share information and propaganda and to identify potential recruits. Twitter provides a vehicle to disseminate information in real time, providing ‘breaking news’ which can be real of fake, often to gain sympathy or incite violence or hostility. Extremist groups use engaging visuals and hip-hop soundtracks on YouTube to target young people. Cyber magazines such as Inspire and Dabig share skillfully edited information and images to reach a wide audience.

Today’s young digital natives are increasingly addicted to competitive online gaming where much of the action takes place in hostile environments. The pro-aggression attitude within the on-line gaming world promotes bullying, harassment, homophobia, racism and misogyny. There are a range of extremist groups and narratives that promote the use of violence, which affect individuals and communities right across Europe. These include ISIS; Al Qaida; extreme Right and Left Wing quasipolitical groups. Global events like the economic crisis and the conflicts in North Africa that spawned the recent influx of migrants throughout Europe are also impacting local communities. These can sometimes lead to community tensions, fuel suspicion, and create divisions between people from different cultures and backgrounds. Tensions in local communities between different ethnic groups; feelings of grievance and injustice; ‘them and us’ thinking; a need for identity, meaning and belonging are just some of the factors that are common place in Europe today and these factors help create the perfect conditions for radical extremists to operate. The process of radicalisation is different for every individual and can take place over an extended period or within a very short time frame.

Radicalisation needs to be understood as a process not an event. As a process, it is possible to intervene to safeguard vulnerable young people. The chances of success for any proposed intervention can be significantly increased if the anti-radicalisation message is delivered by a credible voice from within the youth community.

The aim of the HYPER project is to design and produce a full suite of educational resources that show the process of radicalisation in action. These resources will focus on demonstrating how radicalisation can happen on the most popular digital and social media platforms where today’s young people hang out and where many are at their most vulnerable. The suite of simulation resources will act as a gateway to an online learning environment where a wide range of suitable and appropriate training resources will be provided. To accompany these simulation resources the project consortium will develop a peer training programme for young people interested in being credible voices against radical extremist rhetoric and actions. Education is one of the key intervention tools available to EU Member States to counteract the growth of radicalisation and frontline youth workers who engage with a wide cross-section of young people in a variety of formal, informal and non-formal settings are the most appropriate individuals to lead this fight. To support these youth professionals HYPER will develop bespoke in-service and induction training programmes to enable them to extract the maximum benefit from the full range of proposed tools. In the words of Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs “no country is spared from the scourge of violent extremism but still far too few EU Member States are facing up to this rising threat. We need strong, preventive measures to counter extremism in all its forms”.

First newsletter (FR)