Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Social media key for terror groups - study

15 May 2014, 06:43

Washington - al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups have expanded their online presence with increased use of social media, creating new challenges for thwarting attacks, said a study released on Wednesday.

The study released by the Woodrow Wilson Center's DC Commons Lab found terrorist groups have moved their online presence to outlets such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

"All terrorist organisations are online using many platforms," said Gabriel Weimann, a University of Haifa professor of communication and author of the report.

"From the point of view of a terrorist, [social media] provides an important advantage: anonymity," Weimann told a forum at the Wilson Centre where the study was released.

Weimann said these social media have become important tools for recruitment, propaganda, fundraising and even for training - such as how to build a bomb.

Weimann, who has been studying communications of terrorists for years, said that in 1998 only 12 terrorist-related websites were in existence, and now the figure has grown to nearly 10 000 plus related social media presence.

"They have launched forums and chatrooms. They added social media," he said.

Weiman said the groups "never invented anything" online but have taken advantage of online freedom to create tools such as the slick online English-language magazineInspire used to recruit and train sympathizers in the United States and elsewhere.

Targeting the young

Social media allow terrorist groups to take a more proactive role in reaching people, and can connect more easily with a younger audience.

"Terrorists have good reasons to use social media," he says in the study.

"First, these channels are by far the most popular with their intended audience, which allows terrorist organizations to be part of the mainstream. Second, social media channels are user-friendly, reliable, and free. Finally, social networking allows terrorists to reach out to their target audiences and virtually 'knock on their doors' - in contrast to older models of websites in which terrorists had to wait for visitors to come to them."

Weimann said the social media enables groups to keep alive some of their heroes, like Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a US drone attack after being targeted by Washington for fomenting terror attacks.

YouTube has simplified sharing for terror organizations of videos, including those of assassinations and kidnappings, the report said.

And Twitter has become a way for groups to "live tweet" actions, such as last year's deadly attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya, Weimann added.

Weimann argued that trying to block terrorists' online activity is mainly counterproductive, and that it may be more useful to monitor and learn from their online activities.

"There is no way to block them," he said.

The Al Qaeda linked group al-Shabaab was removed from Twitter after the Westgate attack, he noted, "but they were back up in a few days."

Weimann said the growing online presence of terrorists underscores the need for improving surveillance, such as systems used by the National Security Agency, but with safeguard to protect privacy.

"There is a crucial need for monitoring" or terrorists online, he said, "but all of this must be regulated".



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...