Using social media for terrorist recruitment

The pros and cons of living in a virtual world without borders

“Social media” as a tool for terrorist propaganda? It is not a secret that terrorism uses social media and technology. The use of “social media” as a tool to spread hate and propaganda by terrorism was an unforeseen consequence of his creation.
Social media and recruiting might seem like a strange pair, but the same way that politicians use social media to spread their influence, communicate and fundraise, radical organizations can use them for the same purposes.
The internet and social media are part of our daily lives; mobile computing devices are always more accessible and therefore their use by individuals and organizations to radicalize have become increasingly popular.
The members of the terrorist organizations are spreading their ideological thoughts using social media for recruitment.
Social media are always there, anytime the user needs it, in the name of friendship and acceptance. That’s why they are an effective tool for radicalizing and recruiting members into a cause.
Internet is a relatively unregulated space without too many restrictions where even terrorist organizations can create and spread their propaganda through a large number of websites and social media platforms.

How terrorist organizations have used social media with a recruiting strategy?

terrorist in social media

Although it is considered a relatively recent phenomenon, terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS use internet as one of the primary tools of recruiting.
Terrorist organizations are using social media for recruiting, training and communicating with their supporters, followers, donors as it is cheaper and faster.
In using social media for recruitment, Al-Qaeda was the first, but ISIS has used social media in a modern way: they have an entire team that deals exclusively with producing and posting videos online.
In 2016 Twitter closed 125,000 accounts related to the terrorist organization, but it has not been sufficient to close them; new ISIS accounts quickly spring up to replace the old ones.
However, ISIS was’t the only terrorist group to use Twitter. In 2013 al Shabaab live tweeted one of their attack. Al Shabaab also uses YouTube and Facebook to share their propaganda with young people.
Not only Islamic terrorism, but also The Ku Klux Klan has been using Twitter in recent years.
Terrorist organizations have also online magazines focused on recruiting and spreading their extremism.
Thanks to -or we could say because of- social media, apps and websites, the big portion of the recruitment takes place online. Some activities that once were conducted face-to-face -as training- are now conducted through websites and virtual training camps.
For example, a tool that everyone of us has used at least once in his life as Google Earth, can be used to study locations and plan potential attacks.

The power and reach of social media weapons of terrorist organizations

In the late 1990s internet become widely used. Internet was a revolutionary idea for that time. People were able to reach out and immediately communicate with anyone in the world. The world become small.
Today social media are the order of the day: even children have grown up with cell phones. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter offer users the opportunity to connect and share at any time. Social media have opened the borders of the world, but also exposes many people to emotional vulnerability and alienation and that’s why is the perfect tool for radicals. The risk is that the gap left by social media is filled by terrorist organizations that use social media to make terrorist propaganda.
“We are in a battle, and more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media” as Simon Cotte said.
Social media allow everybody, then also terrorist groups, to provide content directly to websites or individuals, and everything is without limits.
Internet postings are not regulated as sources of news and also everything we do with internet can be done in anonymity: here the terrorist take their advantages.
Social media can be used by terrorist to target individuals who might be more vulnerable to their ideology, for example young people.

Of course, social media is not the cause for radicalization or revolutions, but as technology quickly changes we need to be always aware that technology is being exploited.

Daniela Cozzolino