Study: Online terror mostly in social media

90 percent of organized terrorism on the Internet is occurring on social media websites.

January 10, 2012 05:19
2 minute read.
Cyber warfare [illustrative]

Cyber warfare US Department of Homeland Security 311 (R). (photo credit: Ho New / Reuters)

The majority of online terrorist activity is now taking place on social media, a new study has found.

Prof. Gabriel Weimann, of the University of Haifa’s Communications Department, found that 90 percent of organized terrorism on the Internet is occurring on social media websites.

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“By using these tools, the organizations are able to be active in recruiting new friends without geographical limitations,” Weimann said Monday.

Weimann, who has published a book on Internet-based terrorist activities, studied public and password-protected sites over the past decade.

Facebook, chat rooms, YouTube, and other sites that have been key to the Internet’s evolution are also being utilized by Islamist radicals, he found.

“The social media is enabling the terror organizations to take initiatives by making ‘friend’ requests, uploading video clips... and they no longer have to make do with the passive tools available on regular websites,” he said.

Terrorist organizations have found a dual use for Facebook: recruitment of new members and an intelligence gathering platform, Weimann found.

He cited reports from Lebanon stating that Hezbollah is trawling through Facebook accounts belonging to IDF soldiers searching for intelligence that could be used to plot attacks.

The US, Canada, and Britain have instructed members of their armed forces to delete all personal information from Facebook accounts to prevent al-Qaida from accessing sensitive information.

“Facebook has become a great place to obtain intelligence.

Many users don’t even bother finding out who they are confirming as [a] ‘friend’ and to whom they are providing access to a large amount of information on their personal life. The terrorists themselves, in parallel, are able to create false profiles that enable them to get into highly visible groups,” Weimann said.

More traditional forums are still being used to obtain expertise in bomb-making and preparations for terror attack.

“I have a kilogram of acetone.

I want to know how to make an explosive with it to blow up a military jeep,” read a message on an open forum belonging to Hamas’s military wing, the Izzadin Kassam, Weimann’s research revealed.

The query was answered quickly with detailed instructions.

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

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