Given the spurt in online penetration all over the world, recruiting and radicalising youths by terror groups like Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda, have gained momentum. To put an end to these unlawful activities, the White House and other government organisations have been mounting pressure on the social media firms to undertake aggressive policing.
Just two days after the US Justice Department's meeting with social media firms on strategies to keep cyberspace out of bounds for these terror groups, a video by the IS supporters already emerged threatening Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
The 25-minute video titled ‘Flames of the Supporters’, which was first spotted by Vocative on Wednesday, shows pictures of entrepreneurs riddled with digitally added bullet holes. According to Vocative, the clip was published on Telegram – a social media site popular with ISIS militants – by a group that calls itself ‘The sons of the Caliphate army’.
The video, which was allegedly released by the supporters of the said groups, warned the duo of dire consequences
for their attempts at thwarting their social media presence by suspending their accounts and deleting posts that incite violence and extremism.
The video ends with this threat: “To Mark and Jack, founders of Twitter and Facebook and to their Crusader government. You announce daily that you suspended many of our accounts and to you we say: is that all you can do? You are not in our league. If you close one account we will take 10 in return and soon your names will be erased after we delete you (sic) sites, #Sons_Caliphate_Army”.
They also claim to have hacked more than 10,000 Facebook accounts, 150 Facebook groups, and more than 5,000 Twitter accounts. Two scholars who track ISIS activity online confirmed that the video was posted to multiple IS forums, including some on the social media platform. In this faceless world of Internet where millions log in online on a daily basis world over, IS has clearly abused the social networking sites by making them as a vital platform to spread violent propaganda and radicalize new recruits. They have been exploiting the massive outreach of the social media in ways one can only imagine.
Soon after the release of the propaganda video, UK media reported that the terror groups active in Syria are using social media to buy and sell heavy weapons, guns and ammunition. IS and Al Qaeda could also use Facebook to buy an anti-aircraft rocket launcher capable of blowing a passenger jet out of the sky, Daily Mirror reported on Thursday.
It is being sold for $67,000 on the page called ‘The First Weapons Market in Idlib (Syria) Countryside’. Although the sellers are Syrian rebels, the nature of the conflict in the war zone means the weapon could easily fall into IS hands, the newspaper said.
In December 2015, it was reported that the European Union has collaborated with Google, Facebook, Twitter and law enforcement agencies with a sole motive of combating the rampant online extremism.
“This is a new way to tackle this extremist abuse of the Internet, and it will provide the platform for expert knowledge to be shared, for quick and operational conclusions to be developed, and powerful and credible voices to challenge extremist narratives,” EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos had said during the meet.
Earlier in February, the Britain MPs, at the Home Affairs Select Committee meeting, pulled up the social media trio – Google, Facebook and Twitter – in Parliament on the mammoth task of removing abusive posts and those used to recruit young jihadis. The firms were called in front of the government to explain how they are working to curb the spread of viral content uploaded by the extremist groups. The website representatives elaborated on expanding teams of staff dedicated to weed out extremists, recruiting Arabic speakers and using ex-FBI workers to fight the rise of IS, Daily Mirror reported.
In their struggle to craft a cohesive strategy, the United States and government agencies all over are actively trying to do the damage control. Reuters reported that the meeting which was convened by the US Justice Department this week, was attended by nine government agencies along with representatives of the United Nations, as well as companies including Twitter, Facebook, Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Apple, Microsoft and Snapchat.
As reported by Cnet, the topics discussed at the meet included helping others create content that would undercut the IS propoganda, use of technology to disrupt radicalization and identify recruitment patterns.
Social media firms are assuming responsibility of curbing online terrorism and have stepped up their efforts to take down jihadist content. Facebook policies explicitly ban support of what it deems terrorist groups, and Twitter announced this month it has taken down more than 125,000 accounts for “promoting terrorist acts”.
Interestingly, measures like counter-narratives and optimistic messaging are being implemented by the social media websites, especially Facebook, to strike down Islamic extremist messaging in full measure. These methods involve websites crowd sourcing to promote anti-militant ideas and encourage people to opt for avoiding such approaches.
With these offensives launched against them, it is evident that IS or other such extremist groups would want to target Zukerberg and Dorsey. However, what remains to be seen is that how the social media giants would manage to accomplish this herculean task of undoing the doing of the extremist groups warding off their occasional threats.