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Friday, April 12, 2024

Fanboys or the Frontline?: How al-Shabaab’s Social Media Influencers are Controlling the Narrative

These influencers move beyond ‘fanboys’ – supporters or sympathisers – to critical actors in support of the terrorist group’s activities and recruitment.

For over a decade, the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabaab has prioritised media engagement as a critical component of its propaganda and recruitment efforts. In recent years, the group has doubled down on its social media presence using influencers to spread its narratives and official press releases/videos. The role that these influencers play within al-Shabaab’s operational hierarchy is not well understood, and as such, the current internationally-backed counter-al-Shabaab campaign is missing a critical angle.

This Insight explores the role that social media influencers play in al-Shabaab, highlighting their centrality to the terrorist group’s operations. These influencers move beyond ‘fanboys’ – supporters or sympathisers – to critical actors in support of the terrorist group’s activities and recruitment. To illustrate the role of influencers in al-Shabaab, I examine the case of the deadly May 2023 attack in Buulo Mareer, where al-Shabaab claims to have killed more than 130 Ugandan soldiers. I analysed al-Shabaab influencers’ activities on Facebook, Telegram, TikTok, and other smaller platforms over a three-week period surrounding the attack, and how their content and approach contrasts with communications from the counter-al-Shabaab campaign. The case highlights the role that influencers play, and how their control of the narrative online hampers the renewed efforts of the Somali government and international community to weaken the group’s grip in the region.

Read more at the Global Network on Extremism and Technology

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Homeland Security Today
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.
Homeland Security Today
Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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