Terrorism is an unlawful and violent movement that has been a threat to global peace and security for decades. One of the main reasons that fuels terrorism is the rise in the number of people who join terrorist groups and spread their messages.
Terror organizations devise many ways to radicalize and recruit violent and non-violent extremists. With the advent of technology, social media has become a prominent tool used by terrorists to further their goals and communicate with the common people.
Social Media: A Tool For Spreading Terrorism
According to a study by Gabriel Weimann from the University of Haifa, nearly 90% of organized terrorism activities on the internet takes place via social media.
Social media platforms like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook have been increasingly used by terrorist groups to spread terror and instigate people in recent years.
Terrorist groups utilise social media because it’s cheap, accessible and facilitates quick flow of information to a lot of people. It allows them to engage with their networks, which was not this easy in the past.
Also Read: Richest Terrorist Organisations Of The World
Social media also allows terrorists to release their messages to the intended audience and interact with them in real-time. It allows the dissemination of messages on a large scale without the filter or ‘selectivity’ of mainstream news outlets. It allows them to communicate freely without restrictions and spread terror.
Terrorists also radicalize youth to join their groups or work to spread hate and violence among people. Many terrorist groups have been successful in developing a cult following among youth through social media networks.
How Different Terror Organizations Use Social Media?
Al-Qaeda was the first terrorist group to fully exploit the internet. It calls itself a global movement and uses global communication networks to reach its audience. It eyes for not only creating terror among its foes but also awakening the Muslim community.
The leaders of Al-Qaeda communicate regularly with audio and video messages posted on its website and disseminated on the internet. According to a report by Storyful, they used about two dozen Tik Tok accounts to communicate their propaganda online.
The number of websites and accounts of Al-Qaeda-inspired movements have grown from a handful to thousands, although many of these have an ephemeral presence.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS has utilized more than one hundred sites to spread their messages.
ISIS releases threatening videos of beheadings and executions on social media. The ISIS leaders post videos of brutal beheadings of soldiers online where they can be viewed by anyone and also send them to government officials as threats.
These videos of executions are posted online to manipulate viewers and cause havoc among the public. The posted videos generally have high quality and depict the cruelty of inhumane acts. It also shows the hostage speaking a few words before getting killed on camera.
In addition to such violent videos of beheadings, ISIS also releases videos in which its members are doing nonviolent acts like visiting hospitals and helping people. This is done to create a contradictory image of the terrorist group among the public.
Social media is also utilised by ISIS to recruit foreign nationals to join terrorist causes. In some cases, these newly recruited people are sent back to their countries to carry out terrorist activities. While there are many who have been instigated to spread terror by getting exposed to online propaganda communicated by the terrorist groups on social media.
Taliban, a terrorist group that took over Afghanistan recently has been active on Twitter since May 2011. It has amassed a following of over 7,000 people. It tweets frequently on an hourly basis under the handle @alemarahweb.This account is currently suspended.
The Somalia based terror group, Al-Shabaab has been using a Twitter account under the name @HSMpress. The account was opened on 7 December 2011 and gained a following of tens of thousands of people.
Boko Haram, a Nigerian-based terror group released a video statement defending their actions after a series of coordinated Christmas bombings in Kono, Nigeria on YouTube. It has also used Twitter to voice opinions.
Impact Of Online Propaganda And Radicalization In Kashmir
Let’s take the example of Kashmir to understand the reach and impact of online propaganda.
Militancy in Kashmir that began in 1989 took over a radical turn when terror organizations like the Hizbul Mujahideen became prominent. Burhan Wani, the Hizbul commander was killed in 2016 evoking a surge in violence by youth who saw him as their ‘hero’.
Researchers and historians claim that Wani’s popularity among youth as a revolutionary leader can be attributed to the use of social media. It is said that Wani and other terror groups based in Pakistan extensively used social media networks to fuel terror and convert people to terrorists.
This is how terrorists use social media to brainwash people and expand their ideas.
Attempts To Restrict Terrorist Groups From Using Social Media
The leading social media companies brought in many changes to their censorship policy to regulate terrorist content on social media and restrict terrorist groups from spreading terror.
The social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube issued guidelines to prohibit terrorist content or anything that instigates violence and fear among the public. They also censored and suspended many audios and videos that could cause potential harm to peace and evoke terror.
But at the same time, it was found that terrorists still operate on the internet through their duplicate accounts and fake websites. Some of them even published their own magazines online and garnered popularity among the youth.
The radicalization and recruitment of youth in terrorist groups has resulted in rising insurgency and terrorist activities at many places across the world.
Thus, all these instances exemplify how social media can become a weapon for terrorists to achieve their motives. It also raises the issue of safety and increasing vulnerability of common people to radical mindset on social media platforms. It showcases how the age of technology has become a crucial source of fuelling terrorism in the world.
Image credits: Google images
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