Uses of Social Media by Terrorist Organizations

One of the biggest challenges of today's world is Terrorism & its increasing reach. Almost all the continents are facing it with the same urge. Terrorist organizations are using media & especially electronic media like internet platforms, emails, and social media etc. due to convenience, affordability & broad reach provided by it.

Case Studies of Uses of Social Media by Terrorist Organizations:

Target PT Target PT

1)     In Recruitment from other countries: 

ISIS is using the network of their recruiters around the world & paying them $2000 to $10000 depending upon who is recruited. Recruiters are using social media platform. They are releasing videos of to target individuals who are susceptible to its message of violence and adventure. ISIS has also benefited from "disseminators", individuals who are sympathetic to their cause but not fighting for them. Social media and other communication methods has also enabled those who are willing to be radicalised to directly engage with the conflicts in Iraq and Syria and communicate with ISIS fighters. As per new confidential U.S. intelligence assessment indicates that as many as 30,000 foreigners from more than 100 countries have flocked to Syria and Iraq to join the ranks of ISIS in the past year, double the number of recruits from the year before. Of the 30,000 newcomers more than 4,500 have come from Western countries, including 250 Americans and 750 Britons In Europe it is Belgium from where more than 500 people joined ISIS.

India is also suffered from it however less severely. So far, near 23 Indians have gone to ISIS hold areas in Iraq-Syria to fight for the terrorist group.

2)    In Name of religion:

A 26-year-old MBA from Hyderabad, decided to leave his pregnant wife to join the ISIS in Syria. To do khidmat (service) and be part of the ISIS or the Islamic State, this young man, like many other Indian Muslims, had been interacting with handlers on the social media and gradually getting lured to the idea of attaining jannat (heaven) by serving the Sunni terror group that has massacred thousands in order to set up a Caliphate. After watching ISIS videos and interacting with radicals, he wanted to go to Syria.

3)   Targeting Women:

Recently three teenage girls left their homes and families in London to travel to Syria and join ISIS. Days before the girls' departure, a Twitter account appearing to belong to 15-year-old Shamima Begum tweeted to an account associated with a female ISIS member known online as ‘Umm Layth’. Umm Layth is the name used online by Aqsa Mahmood, a 20-year-old woman who ran away from her home in Glasgow in November 2013 to join ISIS and marry a militant. Mahmood is part of a small clique of ISIS women with active and publicly visible Twitter profiles. They use the platform to share "the truth" about their lives in Syria and Iraq and make themselves available to potential "recruits." These accounts actively encourage interested parties to reach out to them using messaging apps like. Kik and SureSpot for advice on how to "make hijrah," or migrate, to the "Islamic State." In addition to offering one-on-one advice, these accounts also continually tweet reasons why women should leave their countries and join the militant group. Accounts claiming to belong to ISIS fighters also applaud the women who have joined the group. One of the much-touted selling points of living in ISIS-controlled territory, according to these accounts, is its diverse membership.

4)    Use of Print Media:

Copies of Dabiq which carries ISIS propaganda on an array of topics including jihad and reviving slavery were available for $26. The product description described Dabiq as "a periodical magazine focusing on issues of tawhid (unity), manhaj (truth-seeking), hijrah (migration), jihad (holy war), and jama'ah (community), including photo reports, current events, and informative articles on matters relating to the Islamic State." Despite going on sale Saturday, Dabiq is freely available online. The magazine is part of ISIS's sophisticated propaganda efforts that also include YouTube videos and forays into social media.

Social Media in the arena of Communal Violence:

i)     2012 North East Violence:

In July 2012, violence in the Indian state of Assam broke out with riots between indigenous Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims. The violence and exodus of thousands of people from North-east India reportedly led to a series of incessant protests in Assam, at multiple locations, during the months of August-September. The protesters' main demand was expeditious detection and deportation of illegal infiltrators from Assam.

Nearly 80 people have been killed and 4,00,000 displaced in fighting between Muslims and mostly Hindu Bodo tribesmen in North-eastern Assam state. The mass flight was sparked by rumours that Muslims, a big minority in predominantly Hindu India, were seeking revenge for the Assam violence. First a Mumbai demonstration in support of Muslims in Assam turned violent, leaving two people dead. Then tens of thousands of people from the Northeast who lived and worked in big cities in the south of India packed up and fled back home terrorized by Facebook, Twitter and text messages threatening them with violence in retaliation for what was happening in the North. The Indian government accused Pakistani agents of producing the threatening material to destabilize India. Then India went on a web crackdown, ostensibly trying to shut off the social media causing the panic but setting off a fierce debate about censorship in the process.

As the government began to dig in to the cause of the panic, the story became increasingly strange. Almost none of the images that were ostensibly outraging Muslims in the rest of India, and potentially spurring them to acts of vicious revenge, were actually of Assam. The much-circulated Facebook images were Photoshopped (often badly) pictures of atrocities allegedly carried out against Muslims in Burma several years ago or entirely unrelated pictures (such as those of Buddhist monks helping earthquake victims in Tibet) purporting to be from Assam. But the media consumers in question were not sophisticated, and the rationality was lost in the mass panic.

The use of bulk SMSs and social media to aggravate the communal situation is a new challenge that the recent disturbances have thrown before us we need to devise strategies to counter the propaganda that iscarried out by these new means. Any measure to control the use of such media must be carefully weighed against the need for the freedom to express and communicate.

ii)    Muzaffarnagar Riots:

Social Media had a key role in the Muzaffarnagar riots also, the posts by user over Facebook, Twitter, SMS & coverage by the Indian media tend to affect to mold the opinions and actions of the other individuals of the society.

27th August 2013, a terrifying yet sad day in India which gave birth to a new group of communal riots namely 'Muzaffarnagar Riots'. Severe clashes between the two communities, the 'Muslims' and 'Jats' in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, India broke out in the parts of rural areas and communally sensitive district of Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh which claimed more than 43 lives leaving 93 plus injured.

From inception, the situations and factors which led to the emergence of such serious riots and violence was, on this one day when a Hindu girl was walking past a Muslim community on her way to school; she was being harassed by a man who passed lewd, insulting comments on her. Subsequently killing of Muslim boy & lynching of girl's brother in revenge started the problem which turned into a social unrest.

This was not the end but a beginning which opened doors to the Muzaffarnagar communal riots. The girl's father, when tried filing a FIR against the family of the boy who had harassed the girl, the police refused to register the FIR. On the other hand, when the Muslim family went to file a FIR for the murder of their son who harassed the girl, the police readily registered the case and arrested the Father of the girl with his other close relatives.

Here, the problem actually started, as by thinking that, clear discrimination was done by the administration, theJat community requested the panchayat of their community to force the police in order to drop the charges against girl's father. Nonetheless, the Administration did not take any final decision. The Jat community again approached the Panchayat under the 'BahuBetiBachaoSammelan' and distributed a few inflammatory videos and pictures via CD/MMS. In situation when no action taken by administration, Muslim community attacked the Hindu on certain day . After this incident, the riots spread like fire which became uncontrollable.

The vernacular media and a few major national news channels (electronic) have seemed to have played a vital role in provoking and instigating serious violence and aggression against the Muslim community. Through unfound and false stories, a mischievous and deliberate attempt in spreading hatred between the communities was a part of the role which the media played. Nonetheless, with the support of the representatives of political parties like BJP, they used social media like Facebook, MMS and CD's as a tool arouse hatred before as well as during the riots. Moreover, the people of Muzaffarnagar gave a communal color to the violence by exaggerating the incidents. Many Hindi news channels and newspapers misreported the happenings on daily basis by setting up a picture in the minds of the public that it was the Muslims who were slaughtering the Hindus and initiating distorted violence. As a result, there was a severe rise in the rumors and passion to fight and revolt back in the riots.


The internet has become an integral part of modern living. The spread of social media and the use of platforms is changing the way society operates. Social media has been playing a destructive role in inciting communal violence in India and time has come to check its misuse. Social networking sites are a threat to national security as they are used as tools for drug trafficking, money laundering and match-fixing, terrorism, instigating violence and for rumor tools etc. Social media tools like Blogs, Wikis, Discussion forums, Micro blogs, SMS, And the most burning issue, i.e. Social networking sites Facebook, Twitter etc.

Social Media can be  defined, among other things, as  tools; how they are used, by whom they are used and for what  reason can represent either a threat or an opportunity for  National Security, it is itself shouldn't  be seen as a potential threat  to National Security but those who use these tools may  pose a potential risk.

"It is now a given that social media environments are important sources of data for understanding the dynamics of the diffusion of information and human behavior”. Evidence suggests that, social media had an impact on events such as Mujaffarnagar riots, Godhara Riots, Babri Masjid riots etc. Groups representing a potential threat to National Security like, International terrorist groups, Transnational Crime Organisations, Cracker groups, Religious sections, Hacker groups, NGO's, International organizations,Allied foreign states, terrorist groups etc.


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