Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Jihad in a social media age: how can the west win an online war? | World news | The Observer

Jihad in a social media age: how can the west win an online war? | World news | The Observer

James Foley's murder highlights how the use of film, tweets and blogs to further the aims of ISIS is now a major security issue.

Islamic State's online army – dubbed "the new disseminators" by radicalization experts.

"These are young men in their 20s who have grown up with all this stuff," he said. "They all know it's not that hard to build an app, they know how important Twitter is, they know how to upload a really nasty YouTube video, and it'll go viral quickly. It's second nature to a lot of these young men, plus the lowering price of producing reasonably good-looking propaganda and sending it around the world is a lot easier now than it was 10 years ago."

The two most popular sites used by militants, he said, were Twitter and the Latvian-based site Ask.FM, where users, often anonymously, fire questions at one another. "Periodically a foreign fighter based in Syria will appear on the site. Wannabe foreign fighters can go to them and ask questions: 'What should I pack? What's the weather like out there?'

The most influential tweeter for foreign fighters was named as Shami Witness, a social media operator whose popularity has swollen in tandem with the territorialexpansion of ISIS.

Even a cursory sweep across Twitter can expose a multilayered network of foreign fighters, friends and wannabes. "The police want to close these things down and arrest them, while the intelligence services always want to keep them up, follow their followers, understand their network. They enable security services to track a lot of people.

One downside of attempting to drive extremists from social media is that it will drive them further into the deep web. Last week's Twitter crackdown has already witnessed extremists gravitate towards Diaspora, a decentralised network with data stored on private servers which cannot be controlled by a single administrator.

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