Terrorists Using Social Media as Command Center, Says U.K. Intel Chief

Terrorist groups send an average of 90 tweets per hour; one leader quit over Twitter use.

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Terrorists use social media to spread their message
Terrorists use social media to spread their messageCredit: © Jirsak | Dreamstime.com

The new head of Britain’s electronic eavesdropping agency said U.S.-based social media have become the command-and-control network of choice for terrorists and criminals, and that tech companies are in denial about its misuse.

Writing in Tuesday’s Financial Times, Robert Hannigan said GHCQ and other British intelligence agencies know that Islamic State extremists use messaging services like Facebook and Twitter to reach their peers with ease. He said spy agencies need to have greater support from the U.S. technology companies which dominate the Web in order to fight militants and those who host material about violent extremism and child exploitation.

“However much [tech companies] may dislike it, they have become the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, who find their services as transformational as the rest of us,” he wrote. “If they are to meet this challenge, it means coming up with better arrangements for facilitating lawful investigation by security and law enforcement agencies than we have now.”

“To those of us who have to tackle the depressing end of human behavior on the Internet, it can seem that some technology companies are in denial about its misuse,” Hannigan said.

While terror propaganda is not new on the Internet, authorities say the rise of Islamic State and the proliferation of Al-Qaida offshoots has multiplied its message, reaching an even broader audience through its sophistication and familiarity with the media.

Meanwhile, a recently released survey says that an average of 90 tweets are posted by terrorists every minute, according to the Saudi Gazette.

The survey conducted by the Sakinah awareness campaign in October said that groups such as the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front are using social media as a way of getting their messages across.

Some jihadists have even complained that their leaders are spending too much time on social media, and not enough on the battlefield.

"It's not just you!" wrote Yahoo! News chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff on Twitter. "SITE reports Al-Nusra Front official quits complaining leaders are spending too much time on Twitter instead of fighting."

Isikoff posted a second tweet, reading, "'Even in the sensitive meetings they would not leave Twitter,' Al-Nusra Front jihadi gripes -- on Twitter."

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