Social media has become a very powerful tool in the terrorism front as it has been exploited by terror organization to further their agenda and reach many ‘believers’ both at home and abroad. Social media sites have become the avenue through which terrorists inspire existing and new followers, spread their propaganda and recruit fighters that travel abroad or conduct attacks in their home countries.
The Islamic State’s 2014 invasion of Iraq was launched by a hashtag #AllEyesOnISIS that led the thousands of trained Iraqi soldiers fled their post allowing the takeover by ISIS. The social media campaign broadcasted terrifying orange suit-black hood beheadings, terror attacks or the obscene cruelties awaiting anyone in their path and as such giving them a takeover with minimum resistance.
The defeat of ISIS has majorly been to the back given to the kinetic operation by the dismantling and decapitating the loopholes and infrastructure exploited to reach the masses. For instance, ISIS ability and capability to exploit social media has been gravely undermined by the measures put up and cutting its reach by over 80% in the past two years. Daily and weekly publication on the propaganda and social media sites have almost entirely ceased and the monthly magazine has not been published in over a year.
While the infrastructure has been dismantled, it is important to note that the moves ISIS used to launch as a caliphate were quite effective and as such could be used by another terror organization to establish itself. Therefore, as means to curb violent extremism in the future, the ability of organizations to leverage technology, cyber capabilities, information operations should not be underestimated.
Like ISIS, a group without numbers, or the weaponry can launch attacks and propel itself to a global network and threat by the mere use of social media which is considered as large force and powerful actor in the launch of any war. Countering social media warfare and other online weapons, such as gaining organizational or planning capabilities is a very vital plan in ensuring that an ISIS replacement or terror organization doesn’t use the same tools to launch a global menace.
The cyberspace is a very tricky space that to be adequately addressed and managed to ensure that terrorists do not mobilize and launch themselves to conduct more sophisticated and catastrophic attacks in the future. The threat posed by not monitoring the cyberspace and especially social media is that groups can decentralize and communicate using the ever-developing trends to mobilize itself and create World War III from different parts of the globe without necessarily meeting in person.