Terrorism and New Media: The Post Al Qaeda Generation

Friday, May 06, 2011

Ben Rothke

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The Internet has revolutionized how we socialize and do business, speeding commerce, facilitating knowledge sharing, and creating networks that could not have existed a decade ago.

Unfortunately, terrorists reap the same benefits.

Global Terrorism and New Media: The Post-Al Qaeda Generation is a fascinating new book that provides an excellent over­view of how terrorist organizations use today’s technology to spread their message.

The book opens with the observation that communication is at the heart of terrorism. The principal accomplishment of al Qaeda on 9-11 was not mass murder and destruction of property but rather terrifying millions and, by doing so, changing the way people live the world over.

The authors note the central role news media plays in defining terrorism. Knowing this, terrorists calculate the consequences of their deeds and the likely scope of media coverage to inject themselves into the conversation of civil society.

The authors also discuss how terrorist organizations often make full use of various technologies, including producing periodicals for their followers to learn about using electronic data security to evade detection online by authorities.

From Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, online forums, and more, terrorist organizations are making full use of Web 2.0.

Hez­bollah, the authors note, used Facebook to try to arrange meetings with Israeli soldiers in the attempt to kidnap them. Elsewhere, terrorists use the Web to exchange confidential information for money.

To fight the terrorist threat, Yuval Diskin, head of Israel’s internal security service, recently observed that “countries need to cooperate closely and develop technology together to counter new threats.”

The authors concede that there’s no easy way to stop terrorists’ extensive use of new media. The best approach may be to create a comprehensive communications strategy, executed via new media, to counter the extremists’ messages.

So far, extremists who embrace violence have done a superior job of mastering these tools, but there is no reason why they should be allowed to maintain the upper hand.

Global Terrorism and New Media is a fascinating read and of benefit to anyone involved in terror prevention, security studies, or political science.

Cross-posted from RSA

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