Terrorism Takes Twitter
When I first caught wind of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, I was driving home from a soccer game. I had on the 96.5 WTIC radio station, and I remember hearing a slew of report after report—terrorist attack in Boston. Bombings at marathon finish line. 3 dead, 260 wounded. Suspects remain unknown.
I remember piecing together a mental image of the attacks as I listened. I pictured a group of older-looking, bearded Middle-Eastern men—I pictured Al Qaeda. But what I never could have imagined was that the terrorists weren’t foreign. They weren’t old. They weren’t Middle Eastern. They weren’t Al Quida—they were two brothers, living in the United States. They were 19 and 26 years old. One of them was a college student at UMASS Dartmouth—two hours away from my house.
A decade ago, the thought of American teenage terrorists was nearly unfathomable. We thought of terrorism as an isolated practice of distant Islamic-extremists, and secluded to only the most unstable regions of the world. We were accustomed to hearing about the Al Quida’s—the groups with a clear-cut leader and a following centralized in the Middle East.
But since the Boston Bombings, media has seen more and more reports of seemingly-ordinary U.S. citizens partaking in devastating acts of terror. Take the San Bernardino December shooting, for example. Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married couple living in Redlands, California, shoot up a holiday party hosted by their own workplace—the San Bernardino County Department of public health.
It’s not enough to have to fear terrorism, but now we can’t even fear it within the safety of our own coworkers. It’s expanding, diversifying, and leaking into the minds of our American neighborhoods. Honestly, what changed?
C’mon, college students of the technological frontier, the one thing our parents blame for our generation’s breakdown in face-to-face communication: social media.
Yes, that’s right, Facebook and Twitter, you can bear the responsibility for this one. These types of communication platforms have initiated an entirely new method of universal warfare.
To many American’s, Twitter is merely a platform to retweet funny cat videos and “Damn Daniel” vines, but the site is certainly not lost upon major terror organizations such as ISIS.
In fact, ISIS performs the bulk of its recruiting through these social media platforms.
Just as any marketing company would promote its product, ISIS brands itself world-wide through the plethora of media outlets. The lengths which ISIS recruiters go to in order to gain universal repute and fame are quite intricate.
In addition to their violent, choreographed execution videos which clogged the internet in the early stages of their fame, the terrorists oftentimes provide documentaries, online magazines, press releases, as well as Q&A message boards in order to lure in vulnerable young foreigners to join the organization. They have even gone so far as creating pro-ISIS hashtags and obscene propaganda images (such as a cat holding a gun) to convey their identity across universal grounds.
Unfortunately, the intricate marketing strategies of ISIS has worked in their favor. Over the past year, they have succeeded in recruiting over 100 American teens. While the organization did not officially claim responsibility for either the Boston Bombings or the San Bernardino massacre, the terrorists in both cases showed ties to ISIS via Facebook and other media platforms, leaving officials to believe the attacks were at a minimum, ISIS-inspired.
Perhaps one of the most terrifying facets of ISIS is its amicable persona. The types of foreigners which recruiters are attracting are not limited to the troubled young adults you are imagining. Oftentimes, recruits are simply working toward a higher, philanthropic calling, such as to provide aid for war-ridden countries. ISIS capitalizes on the benevolent yet misguided desires of such teens, and uses their vulnerability as a method of appeasement. Obviously, the philanthropic experience the recruits were expecting becomes an inescapable training ground for extreme violence.
I think we can all agree that ISIS and other like terror organizations need to be stopped. While their presence on social media is certainly allowing them to gain momentum, their marketing tools also make them easier to track down. Government and social-media companies have worked together to battle the cyberwar. While Twitter has recently banned “all indirect threats of violence”, secret-service hackers are working everyday to monitor the deeper crevices of online recruitment.
But still, progression is stalled by people’s refusal to allow government access to their cellular devices, on the grounds of ‘privacy invasions.’ I mean, come on people. Yes, we are a free country, but we are also a country of reasonable constraints. These constraints call for us to sacrifice certain freedoms for the larger benefit of the nation. I would say preventing mass- terrorism violence within U.S. borders is a valid reason for sacrifice.
The world is evolving, and with it, so is terrorism. We must find a way to navigate the more subtle monster that hides behind the privacy of our own screens. Terrorism is threatening, but it is also destroyable. We owe it to ourselves, to our country, and to the victims of senseless terror to allow government to do its job.