A Deadly Weapon: How ISIS Uses Social Media to Target Potential Recruits

Social media.

It dominates lives. Almost everyone uses some form of social media, whether it is Facebook (over one billion users), Instagram (over 300 million users), Snapchat (about 1.55 billion users), or any other form. Most people use social media to stay connected with their friends, share ideas, and let people know what they’ve been doing. Unfortunately, however, social media can also be used as a weapon.

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People are bullied; viruses are spread; and people are subjected to false advertising and recruitment. Terrorist groups—those who useviolence and threats to intimidate or coerce especially for political purposes (dictionary.com 2016)—using social media as a weapon is just another one of the terrible things on this list. Many schools and other organizations are trying to stop these and other threats because they don’t want people to fall into the trap that terrorist groups are setting. However, there is no way to eliminate the risk, which makes educating youth especially important. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) uses social media to target potential recruits.

Many people believe that ISIS using social media will gain them many followers. Fleishman (2015) states that the clips feature the things people of our time are afraid and fascinated by. It cuts through cultures with brutal slaughter and creates feelings of powerlessness and rage that we, as humans, cannot stand. It exposes the difficulties the U.S. and other countries are going through while trying to respond to and counter these horrible images.

People don’t like feeling powerless, or angry, which make these tactics work on them. Some people may say that these tactics do not work on everyone. However, this is not necessarily true. ISIS uses psychological tactics to recruit people. For example, they know that while the tactic may not work directly, it may work indirectly. People are known to copy people.

Meaning that, while seeing the video on their own may not make them want to join ISIS,hearing other people talk about being angry and wanting to join may influence them. Teenagers, in particular, are incredibly impressionable, making them easier to influence. In an article written by Ellyatt (2016), ISIS followers have threatened Facebook and Twitter CEOs. They posted a very roughly made video where they vow to retaliate if the social media websites take down any supporting accounts of ISIS. The video was found deep in the web, where it cannot be accessed through a normal search.

The video also contained images of the founders of the two websites, covered in bulletholes. This shows that even though owners of social media can take down threatening accounts or pages, the groups will always find a way back to the Web. A perfect example of this is the previously mentioned video. While it was at first put so deep into cyberspace that is normally not accessible, the presence of it has still impacted the general public. Although the two sites have been taken down, many pages and accounts supporting terrorism still find their way back to people.

There is no way to escape the threat of terrorists on social media unless, of course, people are wise enough to disregard such pages and accounts. Some schools have taken measures to prevent students from becoming targeted by these terrorist groups. According to Khadaroo (2015), schools from North Carolina to Minnesota have put a program on their computers that alerts school officials of any suspicious, terrorist behaviors. However, Khadaroo (2015) also states, experts say that the program would not be completely effective. The document also points out, students might be smart enough to do certain searches at home, as to ensure that no one catches them. This shows that even though protective measures have been taken, teens who do not know any better could still be at risk of joining a group that could be potentially harmful to them, physically or psychologically.

An article in the Chicago Tribune (2015), called “Social Media Gives Terrorists an Edge,” speaks of an app called The Dawn of Glad Tidings. It was only available on Google Play for Android devices. After about a day, it was taken down. The app, however, was downloaded thousands of times. For each of these downloads, the terror groups were able to get people’s personal data.

This proves how powerful ISIS really is, and how they’ve mastered using social media to target people. Although measures are being put into place to stop ISIS and other terrorist groups from targeting people through social media, there will always be a threat. Young people in particular are very impressionable. Terror groups, ISIS especially, are even using psychological tactics to persuade these young people to join them. Many organizations are trying to put a stop to this with different applications, but there will always be a threat.

All people spend at least a small amount of time on social media, making them a target. Teenagers spend the most time on social media, making them the biggest target possible. This is why everyone should be careful of what they do on the Internet and be aware that there is a threat. All in all, people should be aware that ISIS, and other terrorist groups, can use social media to recruit them.