NEWS

Researcher Reports a Surge in Social Media Use By Subversive Groups

By Carlton Purvis

Terror groups are increasingly taking to the Internet, social media Web sites specifically, for recruitment, financing, and information sharing, according to an Israeli researcher.

“The most advanced of Western communication technology is, paradoxically, what the terror organizations are now using to fight the West,” said Haifa University professor Gabriel Weimann.

The Internet has become a perfect tool for subversive groups because it takes away geographic constraints, provides anonymity, and allows anyone to access it, Weimann says.

When Weimann first started monitoring terrorist groups online in 1998, he monitored 12 sites. Now he keeps tabs on more than 7,800. And in addition to launching their own Web sites, they now have the option of creating networks on blogs, in chat rooms, and on social media sites.

Ninety-percent of organized terrorism on the Internet is being carried out through social media, according to a study authored by Weimann titled, “Al Qaeda Has Sent You a Friend Request: Terrorists Using Online Social Networking.”

Just as governments set up profiles on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to follow topics of public interest and gather intelligence, terrorist groups do the same.

“By now, all active terrorist groups have established at least one form of presence on the Internet and most of them are using all formats of up-to-date online platforms - e-mail, chat rooms, e-groups, forums, virtual message boards, and resources like You-Tube, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Earth.”

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