Recent reports have shown extremists are increasingly using social media to communicate with one another, expand their networks and plan future acts of terrorism. The head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan, has stated in an interview that terrorists are now able to hide their identities using sophisticated encryption tools, which were once only available to government agencies.
How Terrorists use Social Media
Islamic State groups have been increasingly using social media to further their cause, posting content on Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Tumblr, and other social media. The group and their supporters are frequent users of Twitter, with almost 4000 tweets being posted on the day when ISIS marched into the city of Mosul in northern Iraq. ISIS use social media in a direct way, often posting videos of themselves attacking towns and firing weapons.
Terrorist group Al-Qaeda have been online for over twenty years, with the Taliban having a frequently-used twitter account set up in 2011 which has thousands of followers. Al-Qaeda tend to use social media less directly than ISIS, with the focus mainly being to distribute material anonymously and to set up meetings.
In Britain, police have taken to appealing to Muslim women to dissuade or report men in their families who enlist to fight alongside the rebels in Syria. MI5 also has its eye on hundreds of suspects, with 385 terror-related convictions since 9/11.
In Germany, police have carried out raids this week on the properties of people suspected of posting hateful content on social media. The aim of the raids were to tackle what police believe to be a rise in ‘verbal radicalism’, and were focussed on crimes such as glorification of Nazism and Xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and other right-wing extremism. The alleged intelligence behind the raids came from hate speech which took place in a secret Facebook group between July and November 2015.
Social networking platforms have been under pressure to crack down on hate speech online. At the end of last year, Facebook, Google and Twitter agreed to remove hate speech within 24 hours, with the act now being considered a punishable offence in many countries and carrying a prison sentence of up to five years.