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Social Media Companies Fight Back Against Terrorists

Mohammod Abdulazeez was killed in July 2015 after he shot and killed four Marines and a Navy sailor at a military facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. When investigating how the tragedy occurred, police found he’d started following Anwar Al Awlaki online in 2013. An Al Qaeda cleric, Al Awlaki – who was killed by a drone strike in 2011 – was a prolific jihadist recruiter whose many videos aimed at radicalizing Muslims and the newly converted have circulated online since his death.

Born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Al Awlaki was a Yemeni Imam who recruited terrorists and planned attacks for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula using a variety of social media platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, and even a blog, to encourage terrorist attacks. In addition, Al Awlaki edited the jihadist magazine, Inspire, which was made available online.

Although influential, Al Awlaki is far from the only Islamist jihadist to have used social media as propaganda to encourage lone-wolf terrorist attacks. Terrorists’ inventive use of social media appears to increasingly facilitate and inspire lone-wolf attacks in the West.

They’re all over the Web

Many terrorist groups have or had active accounts on social media sites, especially Twitter. The Taliban previously went under the Twitter handle @alemarahweb, while the Somalia-based Al Shabaab used the handle @HSMPress. And there have been many other organizational and individual jihadi Twitter accounts, many of which have been suspended. Jihadists used the accounts to broadcast news stories, propaganda, and even anti-American cartoons. In 2013, Al Shabaab infamously live-tweeted the Westgate Mall attack in Kenya, carried out by allies of the group.

In addition to Twitter, the Al Nusra Front used to have its own Facebook page. Also, some groups use YouTube to post terrorist propaganda and videos of violence against US troops. Some go even further: in August 2014, the so-called Islamic State (IS) posted a YouTube video of freelance journalist James Foley being beheaded. The group claimed it was in retaliation for American airstrikes in Iraq.

As well as the official social media accounts hosted by terrorist groups, there are a number of accounts hosted by terrorist sympathizers. Colleen LaRose, known as “Jihad Jane,” was a widely-known poster of terrorist content. She was eventually convicted of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. 

 

Read the complete report in the Feb/March issue of 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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