Terrorism Research Paper Example
Social Media and Terrorism
One of the man’s most important tools is his ability to communicate with his fellow man, As time has passed we have been able to develop increasingly sophisticated methods to pass on information. From radio to television to the internet our world moves at the pace with which we can share information. The more people sharing a piece of information the harder it is to reach them, and the harder it is to engage them in feedback. Social media enables us to communicate with a large number of people as todays social networks are global. However, this has seen the convenience with which they allow communication attract both positive and negative consequences. This paper looks at social media and terrorism and seeks to observe how they have impacted one another.
Shortly after the emergence of the internet, social media sites developed from the earliest computer networks The earliest social networks combined the best aspects of dating sites, forums and other community oriented social sites. They were then able to allow users to make profiles where one could create a list of friends they could interact with in several ways (Ellison, 2007). These early networks included dating sites, fan forums, learning institution networks and other private networks.
The features on these sites diversified with increased technology and innovation, until they eventually grew from simple communities to the global meeting places we know today. Social networks attract a large number of our society’s population, and due to improved technology, they have been able to provide even more uses than ever before (Ellison, 2007). We have seen how sites such as Facebook and Twitter play a large part in the world today, incorporating birthdays, calendars, videos, photos, games and even business. Not only is social networking a form of entertainment it has seeped into business, politics, training, learning, travel among other aspects of modern life.
Social studies on human behavior show that modern society is slowly shifting into an individual oriented life. It has been discovered that people react more positively when approached on a personal level. Scholars have realized that it is easier to appeal to the masses socially, economically and politically by attracting their interests on a personal level as opposed to a broader sense (Bennett, 2012). This is one of the main tools utilized by social media today it has changed how we interact with a society. Through social media, everyone is connected to the events as they happen and they have an opinion which can be voiced easily.
This has brought about increased political, economic and social awareness as people become more closely invested and involved in everyday matters. This is most apparent in the political arena where parties as well as their candidates interact with the people, and sell their brands (Bennett, 2012). This feeling of being included personally, coupled with more conventional methods allows the people to identify with the subject more making them more likely to react positively to an idea or suggestion even if it is wrong.
One of the main features of the modern era is the free speech and empowerment revolution, technology has allowed us to articulate our views better than ever before. Social media takes this further and allows individuals to be able to voice their ideas, beliefs and stances to a global audience. It makes it easy to be a part of the online community even when you are isolated geographically. Utilizing broad types of information, social media has revolutionized how we give and receive data and news. It allows the individual to tap into and almost limitless pool of knowledge.
The internet uses tools such as RSS, which stands for rich site summary, these tools provide the user with a constant feed of information as it is uploaded on the internet. The information collected on sites such as You-tube and Facebook about our interests are used to personalize the web pages available to us when we log on to our profile. Social media sites then alert us when sites that we, or our friends, had visited before add new information (Pernisco, 2010). These alerts occur in the form of ‘summarized’ links that can lead us to other pages. These links are chosen according to chances of attracting the user’s interest. What we see is that while these networks allow one to interact with their friends, they also increase the chances of meeting new people and being introduced to new ideas in the network as we follow more links and interact with more people (Pernisco, 2010).
The term terror is synonymous with fear; it is identified as violence or threats of violence. Terrorism can thus be said to be acts carried out by people with the intent to create fear or terror as it were. Groups or individuals that result to terrorism have been found to be driven by some strong religious, ideological or political belief. These beliefs when combined with radicalism beget acts of terrorism which may manifest in illegal action. It is believed that terrorists occur in democratic states as liberty and free speech which are the cornerstones of democracy are necessary for the revolutionary radicalism required for it to exist (White, 2013).
While terror has only recently been on the rise due to the increase in global awareness of these kinds of activities since 9/11, it has been in existence much longer. Early terrorism took on the form of assault and war but with increased technology and changing global environment, we have seen a change in both terrorists’ objectives as well as their means of operating. The anti- terror campaign taken up by most of the world put a target on terrorist’s forcing them to abandon outdated methods of promoting their causes (Weimann, New Terrorism, 2014). Terror groups were able to find fertile ground in the fast growing online community. Using websites as a means of recruitment and communication, cyberspace became the newest battle ground for the war on terror. The internet further allowed these groups to communicate openly while maintaining anonymity, by using different names and changing IP addresses; advice, instructions and lessons could be imparted to their brothers worldwide.
It is important to understand the opportunity the internet presented for terror groups, they were now able to communicate on a global scale. The group was decentralized and spread over a wide geographical area making them harder to identify and control. They were also able to get sympathy for their causes, interacting on the internet is less threatening than talking to someone face to face; seeing these people as names on a screen helps to humanize them making it easier for people to open up to their ideas. This sympathy further helped terrorist groups gain funding and increased membership all over the world.
As their activities on the internet intensified they were bound to attract the attention of the authorities. Law enforcement reacted to the increase in terrorist sites by targeting and putting the most suspicious of these sites under surveillance. Increased counter terrorism and intelligence activities as well as activist attempts to attack the sites made the once attractive sites lose their attraction. This forced terrorist operators to actively seek replacement online resources where they could carry out their activities in safety (Weimann, New Terrorism, 2014).
The bulk of early online extremist activity involved only the terrorist themselves and it involved more written work as opposed to today’s diverse media. They made heavy use of websites and passing of messages through forums until advancement and necessity forced them to seek new means. This laid the way for the entry of terrorist groups to social media.Terrorists' groups utilize social media sites in the following ways; they act as a means to disseminate tactics and secrets to operatives. Through these sites they can share weapon schematics, training and instructions, social medial also acts as a way to connect themselves to other similar extremist organizations. They are also outlets for their radical teachings and propaganda; they also provide information on possible targets and law enforcement activities. Networking sites have the following advantages for groups of this nature; first they provide a greater deal of interactivity with the intended audience. The operators can update statuses and get feedback from their audiences; they can plan meetings and share technical information such as bomb making techniques. The network a social media site creates allows the terrorist to reach a larger group, the network not only exposes the group to new potential recruits it goes on to keep them informed through live feeds and RSS links.
Social media allows for a higher frequency of messaging, not only can you log on from many locations using a computer of a mobile phone one can receive alerts on activities just as easily. Social media sites are also cheap and easily accessed, Internet technology allows decent internet access even in third world countries. It acts as a forum for discussions and sharing of different kinds of information and data, they could send audio, video and text based messages. Communication in social media can also be immediate, using live chat or instant messaging this makes passing of any information fast and convenient. It is also difficult to control or impose restrictions on; if the authorities blocked and account or it was compromised another way the operative can just delete it and start another one without much effort. Using public groups also enables these groups to be accessed by anyone as they are not password protected. With nicknames and usernames, member ship is almost anonymous making them that much harder to monitor or control.
Since social media is such a big part of modern popular culture it is easy to find any number of political leaders, officials or influential figures on popular social networks. It is also common place for people to provide details of their personal lives on these sites including their location, their contacts, details of their work, schedule, friends and family etc. While normally this information would be used for socialization terrorist groups can collect this information for planning coordinated attacks. It is believed that social media accounts for almost ninety percent of online terrorist activity in today’s society. This has prompted the emergence of cyber intelligence in an effort to fight against the flood of terrorist activity on social media. Use of Virtual firewalls to help safe guard people identities is just one of the ways being used to combat cyber terrorism (Weimann, Terror on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, 2010). Common sense and care have also been advised while online. It is common place for people to post any information, or accept any request whether familiar or not. We are cautioned to remember that these people can collect information from us in the same way marketers gather information about us on the internet and target our friends or colleagues. It’s common for perpetrators of online terrorism to gather information and get outreach through emailing groups of people.
An emerging form of cyber terrorism is lone terrorism; it involves acts of terror by individuals who are not affiliated with any group. It is believed to be as a direct result of the terrorists’ recruitment effort successes. These individuals start of as normal civilians, they come across terrorist sites and one way or the other is taken in by propaganda. The internet and social media has made it possible for them to get instructions everything they need to know to carry on the terrorists efforts on their own. Authorities are having trouble controlling terror on the web due to laws protecting the identity of social media users a good example is the Fifth Amendment preventing the federal bureau of investigation from taking action against suspected terrorist groups online. It is also difficult to track down these individuals as they are based all over the world and the decentralized networks they use are difficult to pin down (Weimann, 2010).
Efforts to battle the dynamic face of terrorism have not fallen behind; some of these include the monitoring of suspicious web sites. It is common to find users under pseudo names allegedly making plans for attacks or discussing tactics in forums. The size of the internet has enabled it to happen more freely as they do not even need to put their messaged in code. While there are real threats, there are also many groups and sites on the internet that are copy cats who pose little threat to the public. Cyber intelligence and security have grown into a large field; law enforcement has also attempted to set traps by planting information in attempts to unearth leads. Professionals such as computer scientists and security experts are hard at work attempting to find solutions to problems as they arise. A new generation trained in intelligence security and informatics is also being trained to keep us on the front line in the war on cyber terrorism. Governments the world over are also trying to address the issues of radical groups, attempts to look at their stories and to quell the extremism have been made in an effort to wards counter radicalization.
Sourcing of information to support other sources of military anti-terrorist intelligence
Where discovered, stopping of illegal online terror activity is a must. It is important to recognize that while they law exists to protect, where websites or social media pages are found to be spreading propaganda that causes harm the users should be removed and any possible further action taken. It is also part to anti-terrorism strategy to unmask the stories told to garner support for these groups for what they really are. The most powerful tool against terrorism we can have is the support of the people, by revealing these groups and their true nature the public is empowered to resist terrorist influence. Without public approval of their actions these groups lose justification to act and thus power.
In conclusion we can see that social media and terrorism are connected in several ways, while terrorism itself can be traced further back than social media. It is clear that terrorism developed dynamically shifting through different battle fields as the extremist groups try to stay one step ahead of the regimes they view as undesirable. We see how the war on terror has taken on different forms leading to a race to gain intelligence and to sway the minds of the people. It is also clear that social media has made its way into every aspect of human life. We have seen how social networking has enabled the individual to voice his opinions and exposed him to many different kinds of things. It is clear that even though the internet is a tool for knowledge and the betterment of man, it should be used wisely. It is important to take great care in the information given out as we have seen that it is possible to use it against you. It is also important to mind the kind of influences one is exposed to when their on the internet.
Bennett, L. (2012). The Personalization of Politics Political Identity, Social Media, and Changing Patterns of Participation. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 20-39.
Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 1-23. Retrieved from http://www.danah.org/papers/JCMCIntro.pdf
Pernisco, N. (2010). Social Media Impact and Implications on Society. The Student Journal For Media Literacy Education, 1-17.
Weimann, G. (2010). Terror on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. the brown journal of world affairs, 45-54.
Weimann, G. (2014). New Terrorism. Commons Lab research series, 1-20.
White, J. (2013). Terrorism and Homeland Security. Chilton: Cengage Learning.
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