Unfriending Terrorists

Feb 22 2013 @ 6:46pm


Deana Kjuka highlights the rising use of social media by terrorist cells for propaganda and recruitment—and the increasing difficulty of shutting them down:

As terrorist groups seek to reach a broader global audience, their migration onto social networks has proven to be a challenge for the likes of Twitter and Facebook. While governments want social networks to clamp down on terrorist groups, Internet activists are calling for greater transparency into social-media companies’ rules and regulations.

J.M. Berger explores the debate in counterterrorism over how to handle social-savvy terrorists:

The first objection is that knocking terrorists offline “doesn’t work,” because when you eliminate one account, the terrorists just open up a new account under a different name — which is exactly what al-Shabab did after a little more than a week. And then, the theory goes, you’re back to square one. It’s a high-tech game of whack-a-mole.

The second objection is that forcing terrorists off the Internet destroys a valuable source of intelligence, because government, academic, and private sector researchers rely on these online operations for information about what distant groups are doing and who supports them. “The intelligence community took the position that you cannot take this stuff, you cannot take these sites, down,” intelligence historian Matthew Aid told Voice of America last year after a number of jihadist forums went offline. The argument was that more information was gained “by monitoring these sites than any possible advantage that could be derived from shutting them down. And the intelligence community prevailed on this point.”

(Above: A representative tweet from Al-Shabaab’s Twitter account)