In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Brussels last week, which resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people and left hundreds injured, ISIS supporters took to social media to call for additional attacks against Western targets, including a threat to “Turn the White House Black,” according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Hours after the Brussels attacks, the ISIS-affiliated A’maq News Agency claimed responsibility on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Not long after, ISIS supporters swarmed social media—including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram— to not only celebrate the attacks, but also call for more.
Twitter user Milk Sheikh wrote: “Today is a happy day for the believers!”
Another Twitter user, Um Omarah Al-Muwahhidah, tweeted in French: #Bruxelles hashtag, “After the bombs, wait for our soldiers with kalachnikovs. They will fire (with machine guns) in all the streets! This is only the beginning of your nightmare. The second part of the plan is activated. Expect more deaths!”
Aisha Al-Dawlawiyyah, posted a series of tweets in French warning that more bombs were placed around the city. She wrote, “Urgent, do not transport the victims to CHU [University Hospital] Saint Pierre in Brussels, several bombs are inside!”
On Instagram, an ISIS fighter using the name “misqandmaiden”s posted a photo from the aftermath of the Brussels airport attacks and wrote: “The dearest thing to the kuffar [infidels] is to live in this dunya [life], they think this is paradise so we will show them hell.”
Facebook user Omar Abdul Wadud posted an image of a chocolate grenade and wrote: “Belgium chocolate anyone?”
Even more alarming, on Friday, the media office of the Islamic State of Al-Kheir province released a video featuring the group’s fighters and locals condemning Belgium’s role in the allied forces fighting against ISIS, and promising more attacks, including a threat against the White House.
The video, “They Suffer As you Suffer,” which is a reference to Quran 4:104, was published on leading ISIS-affiliated jihadi forum Shumoukh Al-Islam. The video described the Brussels attacks as retaliation for Belgium’s participation in the coalition against ISIS, and featured scenes showing ISIS fighters distributing copies of ISIS’s claim of responsibility, as well as candies and cookies to locals.
A number of residents who were interviewed in the video praised the attacks and wished that more would take place in other cities of the Western countries participating in the coalition.
One ISIS fighter, who was wearing a military uniform, threatened attacks against the US. He said: “You will see more from us, Allah willing. We will not be satisfied with the 40 killed [in the Brussels attacks] because your blood is delicious and we will never be done drinking it for what your airplanes are doing in our country, the land of the Caliphate and the State of Muslims. Allah willing, we will drink from all of your blood and we will turn the White House into a black one, Allah willing, and you will see that soon.”
At the end of the video, the narrator threatened Belgium and the “nations of unbelief” that what they suffered in Paris and Brussels is "only a drop from the sea of poisons" which ISIS has prepared. He said: “What is ahead is more grievous and bitter, with Allah’s permission.”
In recent months, social media companies have been experiencing increasing pressure to crack down on terrorist accounts. Terrorist organizations, particularly the Islamic State (ISIS), have become adept at exploiting social media platforms and other online forums to spread propaganda, recruit followers, and call for attacks.
In February, Twitter Inc., announced that it had suspended 125,000 accounts for promoting or threatening terrorism. The company also said they increased the size of the teams that review reports, reducing response time, and are leveraging proprietary spam-fighting tools to identify other accounts with potential terrorist connections.
“We have already seen results, including an increase in account suspensions and this type of activity shifting off of Twitter,” the company said.
However, as terrorists continue to leverage socialmedia as a critical tool for recruiting followers, spreading propaganda, and calling for attacks, social media companies will likely face increasing pressure to thwart terrorist use of their services.