How Jihadists Use Twitter, And Soon Even Instagram
A new research paper tracks how and why Al Qaeda-linked terrorist organizations and their sympathizers use social media.
Thursday, February 07, 2013
Violent jihadists prefer foreign-language online web forums for their online social networking, but a new study reveals they're increasingly setting up Twitter accounts for propaganda and recruiting. Jihadist videos are already all over YouTube. And it won't be long before they find their way to other popular Western-based social media services such as Instagram, the study suggests.
According to The State of Global Jihad Online author Aaron Y. Zelin at the New America Foundation, Islamist terrorists and their sympathizers use a combination of web forums, conventional websites, and Twitter for social networking. Zelin also suggests that Jihadists use web forums for everyday conversation, exchanging tactics, and socializing, while Twitter is used more as a recruitment and propaganda tool. Rather than using the loaded term “terrorists,” the study refers to jihadists--a category which also encompasses propagandists and ideologists for various armed Islamist militant organizations worldwide.
Zelin details how two U.S.- designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) maintained Twitter accounts despite potential headaches for Twitter. Somalian terror group al-Shabaab and Syrian jihadist rebels Jabhat al-Nusra both have Twitter feeds. Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Shabaab have ongoing, loose ties with Al Qaeda.
Twitter has been irregularly suspending al-Shabaab's account; access was briefly restored on Tuesday, Feb. 5 after being blocked on Jan. 24 shortly after they threatened via Twitter to kill two Kenyan hostages. Al-Shabaab's account was blocked again approximately the same time the New America Foundation paper was released. Jabhat al-Nusra's account is still online at the time of this post; both organizations use the microblogging service to post videos and propaganda.