ISIS is one of America’s largest and most globally diverse threats when dealing with foreign conflicts. Its terror reflects the times we live in– both global and digital. But how does ISIS attract such a diverse group of people? The same way you and I meet new people and connect with old friends: social media. Jihadists use social media platforms, such as Skype, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to recruit future members. According to the New York Times, people in the younger generation, those who suffer from mental illnesses, or feel lonely, are targeted by ISIS and other terrorist organizations, with the thought these individuals are more impressionable. These new members are either brainwashed into supporting or already support the actions of terrorist groups. Jihadist terrorists connect with members of society, usually people who wish to convert to Islam, and analyze the firewall built in that individual’s mind. After examining the “firewall,” terrorist recruiters identify weaknesses in the individual, and persuade them to join.
In a story from the New York Times, Alex, a 23 year old Sunday school teacher, suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, which caused her have a deficiency of maturity and poor judgement. She made poor choices when ISIS began attempting to recruit her. After hearing about the infamous beheading of James Foley, Alex got in touch with a member of ISIS to ask about the incident, who told her to download an app called “Islamic Hub.” The member she was speaking to followed Al Qaeda guidelines called “A Course in the Art of Recruiting.” In this, the terrorist must talk about Islam without mentioning jihad, and appear vulnerable to the person they are converting. This shows how accessible and deceiving terrorists can be. According to Brookings, in 2014, about 45,000 Twitter accounts were used by ISIS supporters. Supporters who have online accounts tend to be easily found, and thousands of these followers are located just in the United States. These followers have downloaded an app called the “Dawn of Glad Tidings,” which allows ISIS to use their accounts to send out electronically written messages, therefore spreading their propaganda to a larger population. It also gives ISIS the opportunity to broadcast any news of their advances, whether it be photos or videos of their attacks.
According to TIME Magazine, presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed a plan that includes shutting down parts of the Internet in hopes to prevent ISIS from reaching out to possible recruits. However, this manifesto has been proven unrealistic as it is unconstitutional; shutting down parts of the internet would cause a clash with the First Amendment. In addition, closing parts of the Internet only in the United States will not dent the recruiting process significantly; terrorist organizations recruit to all the other powerful Western countries as well. Although Americans do not want to admit it, members of ISIS are very smart; they have hacked into different technological systems and executed large, macabre, events without getting caught. Consider making your accounts private, because there is no way to guess who can see your vacation photos.
Image: Jacqueline Weibye