The impact of destructive information

The 23 of November, according to information of Security Department of Uzbek Republic, the clandestine group of extremists’ organization “Katiba Tauhid val Jihad” was uncovered in Tashkent region.

On the territory of the ex-Soviet republics this organization became famous after terrorist act in metro station of Sant-Petersburg in 2017.The figurant of this terrorist act was the suicide bomber Akbarjon Djalilov—Russian citizen—an ethnic Uzbek born in Kyrgyzstan. Another member of that group implemented terrorist operation in Stockholm-when the vehicle was entered into the crowd. It happened 4 days after the explosion in St. Petersburg metro station was citizen of Uzbekistan.

Extremists organization “Katibad Tauhid val Jihad” was created in 2013 as a well-developed network of fighters from Central Asia. They have training camps in different parts of the world, and they form themselves by the model of Al-Qaeda. This group, as Ministry of Internal affairs said, were disseminating the propaganda of extremists ideas ,developing the area of their organization and recruiting new members by spreading video and audio messages with lectures of religious leaders Abdulla Zufar, Sadiq Samarcandi and others. They also gathering the funds for other terroristic organizations and managing sending new recruits in the fields of war in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Political and social scientists concerned with such situation when young people are inspired be radical ideology join the extremists and terrorists organizations. Radical ideology seems to spreading in the region of Central Asia. This is indicated by the emergence of such a phenomenon as “foreign terrorist fighters” in the number of which, unfortunately, the Central Asian region is in the lead. According to various sources, from 5,000 to 10,000 citizens left for the conflict zones from the countries of Central Asia.

Propaganda generally disseminated via some websites and networks on the Internet.

As already known modern computers, tablets, smartphones, the Internet and virtual reality systems have transformed human activities and modern information culture, which has contributed to the emergence of new problems related to human behavior in cyberspace and his psychological well-being.

Some human behavior in the cyberspace make in evidence the rise of new threats related with disinformation, false and destructive religious ideas and campaigns, fake news, cyber terrorism, inciting interethnic, territorial and socio-political clashes. It is also related to increase in the number of new threats such as:

  • information attacks,
  • propaganda of destructive ideas that actively affect human consciousness,
  • the threat of cyber terrorism and political extremism, in the form of militant religious concepts and ideas, fueling:
  • interethnic,
  • interfaith
  • inter-territorial conflicts.

A latest study on perception of information by young people demonstrates how such an impact changes the attitudes and beliefs of young people and contributes to a change in their behavior and social identity.

The key aims of that research is to determine the youth’s cognitive perception of the destructive psychological impact carried out by the internet media and to formulate preventive methodology.

Using an empirical approach, the author puts forward the argument that the destructive information and propaganda has a direct negative impact on the consciousness of young people, instigating their interest in such information.

The study supported by field research tests, and prove that destructive informational impact is able to gradually and consistently alter young people’s views, beliefs, attitudes and negatively affect their behavior.

The purpose of the study was to identify the degree of perception of the destructive psychological impact on the minds of the youth audience, carried out by various communicators on the Internet in order to determine adequate methods of protection against it.

Research objectives were:

  • determination of emotional and semantic coloring of destructive messages in the form of text, phrases and visuals in the minds of a person and the audience;
  • establishing the features of the psychological perception of semantic information contained in messages (based on materials on the Internet) depending on the presence or absence of destructive information in them;
  • identifying and determining the nature of the direction of messages distributed by destructive communities on the Internet and a set of basic propagandized values ​​contained in these messages.

We studied the texts of destructive nature —28 texts and the texts of experts working in the field of counterterrorism—the same amount of texts-28 texts.

To identify the value aspects of texts and messages of communicators, the method of content analysis was chosen. Thus, it was revealed what core values corresponded to the texts of these articles, their semantic meaning in conformity with the19 basic values of Sh. Schwartz.

An analysis of variance was carried out, when all 19 values were searched for both types of each text.

Then the values reflected in the group of propaganda texts and the values reflected in the group of expert texts on countering violent extremism and radicalization were compared with each other.

It was found that the values ​​prevailed in the propaganda texts are different from the texts of experts on countering violent extremism and radicalization and dominated by completely different values.

In articles of a destructive propaganda the following values ​​are more expressed: universalism and concern for others; conformism and rules ;benevolence and sense of duty; reputation; achievements; power and dominance; traditions; safety.

In the articles of experts on counteraction, the following values ​​are reflected more: independence; reputation achievements; power and dominance; universalism and concern for others.

Content analysis of the texts and articles of jihadi communicators and comparison them according to the values ​​identified in them with the values ​​identified in the texts of experts od counterterrorism are much more persuasive than those of counteraction experts.

The nature of the destructive psychological impact on the consciousness of young people on the Internet and the semantic orientation of the texts of jihadi communicators were measured using of intent-analysis as a qualitative theoretical and experimental approach, which allows to reveal the hidden meaning inaccessible in other types of analysis.

An analysis of the impact of the appeals of religious leaders of a destructive ideology and communicators of destructive communities showed that propaganda uses the factors of contamination, imitation, suggestion, as well as various methods of managing fear, uncertainty, manipulating feelings of guilt and shame, and the sense of duty of every Muslim.

Communicators’ references to the authorities of Islamic theologians and sacred books, their frequent mention of them and repetition, contribute to strengthening their authority among their target audience. Duplication techniques are also actively used to better structure the attitudes and beliefs they need among the objects of influence. The exploitation of feelings of compassion and the desire for justice causes empathy of audience. Appeal to the identity of the audience reinforces the self-categorization of representatives of certain vulnerable groups.

The principle of promising rewards for obedience and punishment for disobedience, as well as the desire to dehumanize and discredit opponents, as well as the use of hate rhetoric and other methods of manipulation, contribute to the formation of new attitudes and beliefs among the audience, which leads to a change in behavior, and in some cases lead to a complete change in their social identity.

The study of correlation between the age and tendencies to divide people into Muslims and Non -Muslims shows, for example level shows that the tendency of respondents to follow the calls of destructive communities to divide all people into Muslims and non-Muslims is present among young people under 20 and among people over 60

Middle-aged people from 40-60, do not differ in this tendency.

The practical component of the study targets 172 informants, including the youth and labor migrants and deported labor migrants.

Since 2019 and during the last few years the number of special operations Mehr 1-5  were initiated by President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev,when530 people mostly women and kids were repatriated from refugee camp al-Holl in Iraq.

“It was difficult to get them back. We returned them with great difficulty. The plane that we sent there, had to return halfway. They called me and said that the plane will be shot down. I had to give the command to land the plane in Azerbaijan. We sent buses there to bring women and children back. 5 buses returned only two. Many were not taken away, ”the president said on June 21duringmeetings of the Senate in Tashkent about the first operation Mehr-1

The group of researchers and specialists were mobilized to work with this returnees and organize their rehabilitations and reintegration into society. They were confronted with problem of non-understanding of  their motivations and factors that forced them to travel to war zones and join terrorists’ organizations in Syria and Iraq. They interviewed them, tryingto understand: why they wanted to move to the place which were called “Islamic State” and what they were looking for?

Islamic Scholar Professor Bakhtiuer Babdjanov, who were involved in this activity, expressed his concern about the limited number of researches in this field of study, that not allows to identify the factors which inspire generally young men and women, to join extremists organizations and work for them sacrificing their lives. Local research experience, according to him, are not the same as foreign experience and that’s why, for example US, French or German research papers are not applicable in Central Asia.

Professor and Advisor of Ministry of Education Gayrat Shoumarov said that  social scientists should be seriously involved into the process of finding an explanation to that phenomenon. Research in this field, as he told, it is a new direction and a new field of study. «It seems to be a practical necessity to know how to prevent such phenomenon from all sides of our life: social, political, psychological, economical point so f view. We need understand why they so inspired by that destructive ideology and utopian ideas of “better societies” and glorification of their fighters? Why it seems so romantic for the young generation to join these groups?

Bakhtiyar Babadjanov confirmed that by mentioning the story about group of 14 young girls from 16-18 years old who were trying to move to Afghanistan and wanted to become the wives of jihadists and create the family with them.

According to him the main reason of such behavior of t young girls is the lack of civil education and deep interest into religion, without critical thinking and knowledge of media  literacy because most of admires of jihadists were inspired via specially disseminated information via the Internet.

It is evident that strengthen work on the prevention of destructive impact could be active and open discussion of this topic with young people. In the system of higher, special and primary school education it is important to introduce courses in media literacy and information security and the development of critical thinking skills and increasing a sense of responsibility.

It is important also to increase the level of media competence of representatives of the mass media, as the main agents of social influence, as well as to develop and implement in society various programs to develop tolerance and interfaith harmony.

In the system of lifelong education for adults it should be important to develop digital competence courses for adults and people of retirement age, since they are the ones who are more susceptible to misinformation and the influence of fake information and actively disseminate such information on the Internet.

Regarding the citizens of our country who are in labor migration, it is necessary to contribute to the improvement of their living conditions and legal status in the countries where they are sent to work, as well as to carry out certain preventive work before they leave the Republic of Uzbekistan.


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Saida Arifkhanova is a journalist and researcher residing in Uzbekistan.

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