Social media is a ubiquitous feature in our highly technologised society. We normally see websites and applications such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as an innocuous way to tell other people about what is going on in our lives. Yet, these platforms can also act as highly sophisticated channels through which terrorist organisations can actively recruit members and savvily engage in self-promotion.
At the extreme end of this, we can observe the phenomenon of Islamic State’s (Isis) disconcerting popularity amongst a minority of young Muslims in the west. The recent news of four seemingly well-adjusted teenage girls from Bethnal Green in London escaping to Syria to join Isis appears nonsensical – at least on the surface. How could these London teenagers have become so inculcated by the radicalism of Isis? This is where social media plays an increasingly crucial role in targeting young minds.
According to the military researcher Thomas Elkjer Nissen, modern warfare takes on the form of devising ways to control the population and exert influence through these media. Sites such as Twitter fulfil an important function as a news source for many people, allowing groups such as Isis to tap into this and utilise Twitter to perpetuate the stories they want to tell.
The group’s success in targeting disaffected young Muslims is uncomfortable. Unsurprisingly these groups have created task forces, which gradually but surely reel in young people. In response, Twitter announced last month that it would bolster its own anti-terrorist team, having already deleted 125,000 pro-Isis Twitter accounts since mid-2015.
However, it is clear that a more coordinated effort is required if we are truly to win the fight back against radical groups on social media.