Tweeting Terror

by Lisa Li

          We spend on average 5.6 hours using the internet each day. 8 zettabytes of information floats through the web, waiting for us to access it. One zettabyte is equivalent to 250 million DVDs, creating a vast archive of content to select from.

          Approximately fifty years ago, new information was only available via newspapers, television reports, or simply word of mouth. Now, everything is being posted, tweeted, reblogged, and forwarded through the internet. If there’s a plane crash on the other side of the globe, we’ll know about it within hours, or even mere minutes. Using the portable technology of smartphones, people take pictures and videos of anything from food to parties. All of this information is uploaded to the internet, making Robert E. Kahn and Vint Cerf the creators of an extremely powerful tool. However, it’s not the weapon that makes the wielder. Media can be used for spreading good or bad concepts.

          Frighteningly, terrorists are extremely media savvy, adept at distributing their violent and outrageous beliefs using technology as a platform.  

         A terrorist in Egypt tweeted, “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” However, when utilized in this way, social media presents the instant access of information as a problem rather than a blessing.

          Ted Poe, a United States Representative, writes, “American newspapers would have never allowed the Nazis to place an ad for recruitment during World War II. Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations should not be allowed to use private American companies to reach billions of people with their violent propaganda in an instant, all for free.”

          We need to keep terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah and the al-Nusra Front off of social media. With the internet, no boundary exists to the virtual reach they can extend.

However, when a site like Twitter cuts off a terrorist account, they’ll simply create a new one. Currently, a pro-Islamic state group known as Asiwitiri Media is on their 335th account. Asiwitiri Media is not the only one to taunt us this way; several similar factions do the same.

          Alarmingly, ISIS publishes a propaganda magazine aimed at recruiting people for their cause. As much as we’d like to believe this is a joke, it’s not. Dabiq, a full-color glossy periodical, is published in several different languages and is, “the ISIS equivalent of Time mixed with People and a Chick tract,” according to Robert Evans, an editorial manager at Cracked. The content is deeply troubling, albeit displayed in a surprisingly professional layout. Dabiq features lengthy articles and spreads dedicated to “celebrities,” which in their case means suicide bombers and other radicals.

          As this use of the internet and media continues, it prompts us to ask ourselves who is being drawn in by these messages of terror, and if they’re in our midst as well. Threats of ‘homegrown’ terrorism quickly arise as we start to see influxes of information sourced from supporters of the IS.

          An English-translated bomb-making manual was released on the internet by al Qaeda earlier this year. This information can be accessed by anyone in the United States. What’s stopping potential insurgents from arising within our own country?

          The recent attacks in Paris, Planned Parenthood, and San Bernardino are all exhibits of terrorism, yet only one is being classified as such. Are these not examples of terrorism? How can we expect to prevent pro-Islamic state supporters from executing more terror attacks when we can’t even cut off terrorism in our home country?