Social Media and Lone Wolf Terror Attacks

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dan Dieterle

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You have to admit that social media sites are great for keeping in touch with friends and family and also to find friends that you haven’t seen in a long time.

Kids that go off to college and your friend that moved out-of-state or out of the country are just a webpage away.

It is exactly this function of social media sites that is allowing terror groups to communicate, especially to singular operatives, according to The National’s coverage of a Saudi counter-terrorism conference. 

The ”Forum on the Role of the Internet in Fighting Terrorism and Extremism” held in January, was attended by counter-terrorism experts from around the world including officials from the United States, UK, Germany, and Russia.

The main goal of meeting was “to discuss how to use the internet to counter the extremist message of groups such as al Qa’eda, which has sought to justify violence by claiming that the West is at war with Islam.”

Of major concern was how to combat the use of social media sites to recruit and communicate with single, lone wolf terrorists:

"Marc Sageman, a Washington-based authority on Islamist extremists, noted that the internet has contributed to an increase in so-called “lone wolf” acts of terrorist violence carried out by individuals."

"This is because individuals shy about discussing their extremist views in person can easily find like-minded people on the web through chat rooms and forums. Through these virtual contacts, individuals gain enough confidence to carry out violent acts."

"The internet has allowed “a conversation between disconnected, scattered people which was not possible before,” Mr Sageman said in an interview."

The consensus of the meeting was that governmental groups would have a hard time reaching and discouraging would be terrorists using the internet.

But the Saudi’s believe a group of tech savvy, young religious Muslims who are against violence, would be much more effective in communicating and discouraging other impressionable Muslims.

And so far, according to the article, the Saudi’s have been using this technique with relative success.

Cross-posted from Cyber Arms

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