How France is struggling with a spiral of online jihadist hate
As France reels from a string of jihadist attacks, the country is caught up in a perilous fight - protecting citizens against extremist propaganda whose potency seems to increase with each horrific killing.
Social media has galvanized outrage among many Muslims over the renewed publications of cartoons of Mohammed by the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo -- with tragic consequences that even the heightened scrutiny of intelligence services was unable to prevent.
The weekly put the cartoons on its front page in September to mark the trial opening for 14 suspected accomplices of the gunmen who massacred 12 people at its Paris office in January 2015, the beginning of a wave of terror that has left more than 250 people dead on French soil.
Later in September, a Pakistani man seeking revenge wounded two people with a meat cleaver in front of the office, unaware that the paper is now housed in a top-secret location. He was not on any of France's security watch lists.
"The re-publication of the cartoons was viewed as a new insult and worked as an accelerant," said Laurence Bindner, co-founder of the JOS Project, which monitors extremist content online.
A few days later, President Emmanuel Macron announced a new push to combat radicalism and "liberate Islam in France from foreign influences," sparking indignation and protests in several Muslim countries.
Calls for violence against French targets soon spread like wildfire on social media, surprising intelligence services which knew the country was already vulnerable to "lone wolf" attackers who are nearly impossible to identify before they act.
"The bitterness against France is no longer just in the jihadist spheres," Bindner told AFP. "It now reaches from radical Islamic politics to a much larger religious sphere."