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Social media is being leveraged as a terrorisitc tool… What should be done about it?

According to a 2013 report by the Czech Military Intelligence Service, Al-Qaeda is actively using the Internet and social networks in order to spread its ideology to Muslim youths in Europe, including in the Czech Republic. Along with this threat is the danger of attacks committed by individual terrorists operating separately from Al-Qaeda – significant to the Czech Republic, whose military forces have been weakened. It is harder to uncover these attacks because they function independently from Al-Qaeda and other major terrorist organizations.

While rhetoric in the United States perpetuates a constantly looming wariness of terrorist attacks, the Czech Republic, the Czech Military Intelligence Service reports, is not a primary target for Islamist terrorist organizations. Still, as Muslim youths in Eastern Europe engage in social media, they become targeted by organizations like Al-Qaeda, who use Facebook and Twitter in order to recruit and spread ideology to these groups. Additionally, there is the risk of Islamic State fighters — native to Europe — who have been trained in Syria and return to their homes, which the Czech Military Intelligence Service warns as a security risk to those European countries.

So while movements like KONY 2012 make it easy to tout the Internet as a beneficial tool towards progressive activism, it works as a two-way street – and can be used just as powerfully towards deleterious actions as well.On the opposite end of the spectrum to non-profit movements, terrorist groups have too been employing social media in their campaigning tactics. In 2013, a Tunisian man announced plans to derail a train in Canada posted details to Al-Qaeda’s methodology to Facebook. Recently in September, a Canadian Jihadist  reportedly fighting with ISIS spoke with a journalist from VICE via a Skype conversation, stating plans to attack New York City. Social media also has the power to make threats like the spread of terrorist ideology a massively worldwide problem – no longer limited by boundaries and time and space, groups such as Al-Qaeda can easily bring their messages across to people all across the globe with a push of a button.

Video from VICE News

What, then, can and should be done? The Internet is often praised as a platform for democratized free speech, but is some form of regulation and censorship needed in order to contain harmful messages and behavior from being spread? While it is true that social media brings about an optimistic spirit towards progressive change through positive viral campaigns, it’s also important to remember that there are forces that are intelligent enough to employ the immediacy and reach of social media. It is just another challenge that comes about in combating terrorist organizations in the modern age.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Michael Kappel 

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