Terror Comes to Twitter

If you’ve not been hiding under a rock for the past 10 years and emerged only last week then things might actually seem pretty familiar. There is turmoil in Iraq and some are openly expressing fears of the ancient country falling to a previously unknown terror group known as ISIS or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (not to be confused with this ISIS). This ISIS was actually kicked OUT of al-Qaeda for being too brutal. Imagine that. A terrorist group considered too extreme for the group that pulled off the 9/11 attacks. But, as this isn’t a political blog but instead a blog about Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m talking about it.

Well it seems that despite the desire to pull the world back into a 14th Century Islamic caliphate they’ve actually got a fairly good grasp of social media marketing.

From Twitter to Trend Jacking the current crop of conflicts in the Middle East are the most documented in the history of mankind. We have real time pictures and images, commentary and casualty lists all because the fighters themselves are documenting their entire jihad through their own personal social media accounts. We’re seeing YouTube videos of beheadings, Instagrams of combat and tweets of terror.

The organisation itself is using social media as a key recruiting tool. No longer are they bound by borders but instead can reach potential recruits not only in the countries that they live but on their phones, computers and tablets. Recently the ISIS organisation tweeted a picture of an Iraqi police chief that they had beheaded. However when posting it they included the hashtag #WorldCup so that whenever anyone would search for #WorldCup (which many people do) they would be confronted with this grisly image. This ‘trend jacking’ is a tactic used by major brands as a way to insert their product into the mainstream conversation.  They’ve also taken to photoshop to help mock the United States when ISIS stole quite a bit of US equipment during their rampage through Iraq.

Why Use Social Media?

Why are groups that are so committed to the destruction of Western values using these tools as a method of recruitment? Well there are a few reasons:

Sewing the seeds of terror:

This is the big one. Where better to make people feel uneasy than at home. Not just at home but in their own Facebook newsfeeds or Twitter lists. Let us never forget that the point of terrorism is to terrorise. It is to make someone feel nervous where they previously felt safe. The sight of a beheaded Iraqi may cause nausea but the threat that it will be coming to a cinema near them…that is enough to make anyone rethink how many locks they have on the door.


There is nothing more prized in terror groups than that of a Western turned Islamic radical. Why? Because with racial profiling against Arab looking citizens many terror groups are capitalising on this fact by employing white jihadists. This also instils fear in people because it teaches them that skin colour does not define radical tendencies. ‘Anyone, anywhere can be a terrorist’ it says ‘are you sure that YOU’RE safe?’ Terror groups are using social media to recruit Western converts and convince them to come over to Iraq/Syria for training. From there they will head back to their home town and participate in jihadist attacks.

The End Justifies the Means:

Islamic radicals may decry the perversion of Western society but it seems that they’re more than happy to use the tools created by them. Just as they used airplanes in the 9/11 attacks they’re using social media as methods of terror. For them the end justifies the means. It doesn’t matter what tools they use just as long as the job gets done.

A Record of Achievement:

Social Media allows you to recall and record everything you do. Nothing is truly erased from the Internet and many of these terrorist fighters want to not only spread the word of ISIS but also to remind themselves of everything they’ve done. It’s like checking in to a restaurant on Foursquare when on holiday because you want to remember everywhere you’ve gone.

So is this the future of conflict? Are we to see armies tweeting between each other? Will infographics be a key tool in the fight for an Islamic caliphate?

All we know now is that those who are fighting are digital natives. They have been brought up in the world of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and they’re using these tools to drive, recruit and fund their terror.

Tell us in the comments what you think. Is it right for terrorists to use Twitter?