Monday, 14 August 2017

The impact on terrorism of developments in information communications technology (ICT).

The impact on terrorism of developments in information communications technology (ICT).


The purpose of this paper is to explore the impact that developments in information communications technology (ICT) has had on terrorism. It will be argued that ICT has shaped the way in which terrorists undertake their activities; however, this is not surprising since ICT has changed most aspects of modern society. You just have to watch a television program from the 1980s to see how much this is true: no longer do you need to search for a pay phone, get messages from the waiter, wait for the postman to deliver a letter, use encyclopaedias and what is a bank book? Weimann (2006, p 30) outlines that the development of ICT -- particularly the Internet -- has been beneficial to the activities of terrorist, citing the following extract from the 9/11 Commission Report: “The emergence of the World Wide Web has given terrorists a much easier means of acquiring information and exercising command and control over their operations.” This paper will draw upon a wide array of sources -- written by scholars, journalists and commentators -- from various disciplines. There is a bias towards Islamist terrorist as these are the current threat and hence where developments are occurring; however, examples are use from other ideologies and settings where appropriate. In essence this paper will have three parts. It will begin by defining the notation of terrorism and exploring what terrorists want: an important concept as it will set the foundations for later discussions. The paper will then turn to explore how terrorist have utilised ICT: it will be argued that this has occurred in operational and operational support contexts.  An outline of methods or platforms used to achieve these purposes will follow, exploring how terrorists harness technological developments from the printing press to the Internet. The arguments in this paper will be drawn together in a conclusion.


Terrorists according to Cary (2009, p 13) are “. . . determent to impose their will upon others. Unlike nation states . . . terrorists resort to violence as the first and final solution.” There is significant academic literature that describes the motivations of terrorism. In a survey of academic writings on terrorism, Schmid and Jongman found the following key elements:

  1. use of violence;
  2. symbolic choices of victim;
  3. performance by an organisation;
  4. advanced planning;
  5. operational seriality;
  6. an absence of moral restraint;
  7. political motivation; and
  8. the use of fear and anxiety. (Weimann, 2006, p 21)

Pinto and Wardlaw (1989, p 4) argued that terrorism has two broad goals: (i) to induce widespread fear in the population; and (ii) provoke the government to overreact and thereby undermine their legitimacy. Williams (2004, p 7) defines terrorism as “. . . politically . . . motivated violence, directed generally against non-combatants, intended to shock and terrify, to achieve strategic outcomes.” Strategic outcomes are usually to polarise the population, undermine the government, or cause government forces to react violently (p 9). Whilst Richardson (2006, p 105) summed up the motives as to achieve revenge, renown and reaction. Tucker (1999, p 501) classifies terrorist motives into four main groups:

  1. nationalist or separatist agendas;
  2. retaliation or revenge for real or perceived injury;
  3. protest government policy; and
  4. defend animal rights.
These motivations are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

According to Alexander and Klein (2003, p494) “[t]errorism is psychological warfare.” John Gearson (2002, p 8) argues that the essence of terrorism is the utilisation of fear, illustrating this point with a quote from the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu: “To fight and conquer in all your battles is not the supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” The ability to cause fear is an important element of terrorism as fear and panic will undermine public resolve or cause an overreaction that undermines legitimacy. As Eliza Manningham-Butler (2003 p 3) the head of British intelligence agency MI5 argues, “[n]ormal life is what the terrorist seeks to destroy and creating fear is part of their agenda.”

Purpose: the use of ICT to achieve the aims of terrorism.

Brachman (2006, p 151) argues that the development of ICT has not only added a new medium but has revolutionised terrorism discourse. Weimann (2006, p 30) argues that the Internet, and by connotation wider ICT, provides a wide range of benefits to terrorists:  

1.      easy access to information;
2.      minimal to no government regulation, censorship or control;
3.      potentially access to huge audiences spread throughout the globe;
4.      anonymity;
5.      fast flow of information;
6.      interactivity;
7.      inexpensive development and maintenance of presence;
8.      multimedia environment; and
9.      the ability to shape coverage in the traditional mass media.

This section will focus upon those advantages. It is argued that those advantages can be group into the areas of propaganda/publicity, recruitment and operational.

Hoffman (2006, p 198) argues that “… one of the enduring axioms of terrorism is that it is designed to generate publicity and attract attention to the terrorist and their cause.”  Brynjar (2006, p 17) argues that the “… most tangible impact of online jihadism is … in the realm of propaganda on political communications.” As such, according to Momas (2003, p 120), the use of such media enables them to counter the messages of the mass media with their version of events. This enables, according to Holt (2012, p 341), “… extremist groups … [to] directly refute claims made by law enforcement, governments and the media as part of their overall efforts to control their public perception.” Something which has been recognised by the then Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Mike Keelty when addressing a group of law students at the University of Melbourne in 2008: “… terrorists had been quick to seizure communications power of the Internet to further their cause…” (Davitt, 2008, p 13).

Qin, et. al.(2007, p 82) highlight that propaganda through the Internet can be used to harness supporters and sympathises. Weimann and Von Knop (2008, p 886) go further outlining that “… the Internet has become a forum to spread their messages of hate and violence and to communicate with one and other and with sympathizers.” Of particular importance is the connection with the diaspora community (p 889). Although there is an obvious focus on jihadist groups one needs to remember that they do not have a monopoly in this arena. For instance, Hoffmann (2006, p 201) highlights that the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) was the first group to harness the Internet to further their message: in the early 1990s their leader plug a laptop into the cigarette lighter of his jeep to post real-time messages from the conflict zone. The Tamil Tigers took this notion further by establishing in 1995 which Hoffmann (2006, p 205) argues was established with the aim to mobilise the Tamil diaspora.  Today terrorists groups from a vast array of ideologies utilise the anonymity of the Internet which Weimann and Von Knop (2008, p 885) outline include:

1.      Islamists;
2.      Marxists;
3.      Nationalists;
4.      Separatists;
5.      Fundamentalists;
6.      Extremists;
7.      Racists; and
8.      Anarchists.

Weimann (2004, p 6) argues that the “… fact that many terrorists now have direct control over the content of their message offers further opportunities to shape how they are perceived by different target audiences and to manipulate their own image and the image of their enemies.” He goes further to argue that the role of the Internet has been important to legitimise terrorism through the use of online Fatwas: “the role of radical online fatwas in legitimizing terrorism is a pivotal element in the social and political legitimization of terrorism and the motivation of its supports…” (Weimann, 2011, p 769). Magloff (2011, p 200) describes a fatwa as:

 … a ruling or decision by an Islamic cleric. A fatwa can be a ruling on anything, and fatwas are issued by Islamic clerics all the time on everyday religious subjects, such as dress and behaviour. … Much more controversial are fatwas calling for the death of ‘heretical’ Muslims or non-Muslims.


Those who issue fatwas promoting violence, according to Lewis (2004, p 118), are “… highly selective in their choice and interpretation of the religious leadership.” Weimann (2011, p 769) highlights that these fatwas published on the Internet are “…key issues in promoting terrorism:

    1. justifying the use of suicide terrorism,
    2. the killing of innocents,
    3. the killing of children, and women,
    4. the killing of Muslims or
    5. the use of various weapons[.]”

The effectiveness of these online fatwas can be seen in the fact that authorities in the Muslim World have attempted to counter them with fatwas of their own. Kuwait has gone further establishing a committee of Islamic Jurists to coordinate, approve and legitimise fatwas (Weimann, 2011, p 776).

Closely connected with managing messages through the use of propaganda is recruitment. It is argued by Unger (2011, p 8) in:

 … strategic terms, Islamism operates differently from previous ideological threats to liberal democracy … Islamism’s supranational ideal and protean character mean that it can organise, plan and recruit just as effectively in cosmopolitan cities such as London, Madrid or Sydney as in its more traditional homelands in the Middle East, South Asia or Southeast Asia.

As a consequence, al-Qaeda has been able to regenerate their organisations which have been especially important since its infrastructure was destroyed in Afghanistan (Eilstrup-Sangiovanni and Jones, 2008, p 35). According to Brynjar (2006, p 17) “… graphic video-footage of atrocities against Muslim civilians in various conflict areas has proven to be a powerful vehicle for recruiting youth to militant Islamism.” This is a model which Daesh has developed with considerable sophistication “… through its skilful exploitation of varied social-media platforms and the production of slik, near- professional video and photographic content…” (Lisater, 2014, p 95). Farwell (2014, p 50) goes further stating that through the use of social media – an Internet based platform used for communication which will be examined latter – to communicate with potential recruits in their home country: supporters are provided with a ‘virtual’ experience where they are “… engaged in battle to learn what the experience is like, and to contact facilitators who can explain how to join the fight[.]”

It is argued by Weimann (2011, p 768) that the ability to seduce potential recruits to their ideology is a significant benefit of ICT for terrorist organisations. This argument is taken further by Torok (2011, p 85) who outlines that terrorist groups use ICT to narrowcast their message: such a strategy allows terrorist recruitment agents to target specific populations. She further highlights the need to manage the content of a potential recruit to steer them down the radicalisation process (p 88). For instance, rather than pointing towards references in scripture, the potential recruit is referred to websites of a similar ideology to re-enforce their narrative.  This process creates a ‘virtue bubble’ which Musawi (2010, p 18) argues enables the recruiter to manage the ideological indoctrination of the potential recruit.

The ability to have a safe haven for training is essential for the effectiveness of terrorist training; for instance, Wright (2008, p 37) outlines that the Red Army Faction suffered a terminal decline once it lost the safe haven of East Germany. A simular facility was provided by Libya to ‘anti-west’ groups such as the Irish Republican Army in the 1990s (Sullivan, 2011, p 306). Bartholet (2011, p 20) argues that al-Qaeda was a colonising force in Afghanistan where it was able to gain the benefits of a state to conduct training without which they could not have coordinated such large attacks as East Africa Embassy bombings (1998) and 9/11. Denying al-Qaeda such a safe haven was the reason for the western invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 (Suskind, 2006, p 18). Hoffmann (2006, p 214), argues that for “… al-Qaeda, the Internet … has become something of a virtual sanctuary …” for its activities. Furthermore, the Department of State (U.S.) (2006, p 17) reflected that “… harnessing the Internet enables terrorists to undertake activities they would once have required a physical haven.”

Brynjar (2006, p 14) states that the “… Internet has become a library for jihadist literature…”  with there being a wide array of information available. Weimann (2004, p 9) highlights that an array of “… sites post The Terrorist’s Handbook and The Anarchist Cookbook, two well-known manuals that offer detailed instructions on how to construct a wide range of bombs.” For instance, at his trial David Copeland stated that he had referred to these materials in the preparation for his 1999 ‘nail bombing’ campaign which killed three and injured 139 people in London (Weimann, 2004, p 10). Furthermore, the al-Qaeda manual -- is referred to by the nickname The Encyclopaedia of Jihad -- offers detailed instructions regarding how to establish an underground organisation and conduct attacks and is readily available through the use of ICT. One of the more notorious al-Qaeda online activists was the English school boy Younis Tsoulis: using the username Irhabi007 he became a webmaster for al-Qaeda sites publishing training material to provide instructions for those sympathetic to the Islamist cause, to undertake actions of benefit to al-Qaeda’s whilst it was rebuilding following the destruction of its Afghanistan sanctuary (Holt, 2012, p 434). Not only is it Islamist who publish such material: Holt (2012, p 434) outlines that eco-terrorist groups have published similar do-it-yourself publications. For instance, Earth Liberation Front has published its ‘Ozymandius’ manual online detaining how sympathisers can further the goals of the group by actions of their own. Such instructions are not limited to terrorist organisations themselves: corporations can target this ‘market.’ The company Sakina Security Services Ltd advertised a firearms training course titled ‘The Ultimate Jihad Challenge’ which offered the ability for users to conceal their identity through the use of the encryption protocol ‘pretty good privacy’ (Dwan, 2001, p 13).

However, despite the availability of training information on the Internet it does not seem as yet to have fully replaced the need for some face to face contact and assistance. The author of Islamists military doctrine, al-Suri, emphases the need for practical hands on experience: ICT based training only providing an introduction which would later be supplemented by observing them undertaking operations in a conflict zone (Brynjar, 2007(b)). It would appear that just relying on ICT based materials may not achieve their desired outcome, as reflected in the following statement from a Metropolitan Police official: “The Internet is what the Internet is … people put things up there that are not necessarily accurate.” Brynjar (2006, p 16), highlights that there “… are several examples from Scandinavian countries, where young people … have accessed this kind of online jihadist do-it-yourself manuals and have been killed or badly injured in the process of producing homemade explosives.”

This section will now conclude with an exploration of how terrorists have ‘operationalised’ ICT: in essence used ICT to perform their actions. There are basically two aspects of this notion: (i) the use of ICT as a medium to preform operations and (ii) using ICT to support the performance of actions. Furthermore, Brynjar (2006, p 16) has identified web postings where proposals for future operations are published. Such a proposal was posted on an Arabic language forum on 12 April 2005 involving the use of model aeroplanes to attack oil instillations in the Gulf States. This proposal was well thought out: it contained detail instructions on how to procure materials, technical scale drawings as well as a political analysis as to why it would be of benefit to the jihadist cause.

Jihadists were not the first to use ICT as a medium to support operations. For instance, when their leader was arrested by Turkish security forces and sentenced to death in 1999, the Kurdish Workers Party used email to coordinate attacks upon Turkish diplomatic missions around the globe (McHugh, 2011, p 336). However, the 2008 Mumbai attack took this level of coordination to a new level. Lashkar-e-Taiba used Internet based ICT systems to not only obtain intelligence but also to coordinate their attack (Farwell, 2014, p 49). Initially they used Google mapping applications to gather intelligence, but then used the same applications to plot their progress and the response of security forces during the attacks with the assistance of mobile telephones. This enabled the Pakistan based controllers to provide real-time command and control function to their operatives: something previously limited to Special Forces. It has been reported that during the November Daesh attacks on Paris that mobile telephones connected to ‘free wifi’ networks were used to coordinate the attack utilising the application Tor (Misener, 2015). Tor is “… free software which allows anonymous Internet browsing and messaging.” Unlike traditional use of the mobile telephone network -- French security forces have stated in secret documents obtained by the media -- Tor does not leave a ‘digital’ footprint which could either be intercepted or later be used by security forces to track offenders (Misener, 2015).

The use of ICT as a medium of attack has been in the public consciousness for a considerable period. Stohl (2006, p 223-224) argues that popular fiction such as those written by Tom Clancy coupled with the hype surrounding Y2K – the effect of the 1 January 2000 changing of the data prefix of 19 to 20 on computer systems – have brought siege mentality of fear. He further argues that in “… reality … cyber terror remains a potential threat rather than an ongoing series of events…”(p 225).  He further highlights that Thomas has outlined that “… cyber fear is generated by the fact that what a computer attack could do …” rather than the reality of an actual attack. However, Knight and Ubayasiri (‘eTerror’, p 12) outlines there has been a virtual war over the Internet by Arab and Zionist groups: the Israeli flag was posted on Hezbollah websites whilst pro-Palestinian slogs were posted on Israeli government sites. Similarly, Momas (2003, p 112) highlights the “… Internet was used as a virtual battleground between NATO’s coalition forces and elements of the Serbian population.”

Furthermore, ICT can be used to disrupt the operations of a target. This can be very rudimentary email and fax bombardments to over loading computer networks. One of the first examples was conducted by the EZLN in the early 1990s coordinated through the use of email. Their supporters throughout the globe sent numerous fax and email messages to the Mexican President and Interior Minister which overwhelmed their system. Dwan (2001, p 12) argues that such a sustained attack could be more than nuisance value and could eventually “… result in printers locking its motors, overheating and bursting into flames.” However, no examples of this actually occurring were provided and it definitely did not occur in the case of the EZLN. Nevertheless, Holt (2012, p 345) has identified that examples of the latter have been perfected by the hacker community:

…hacktivist group called the Electronic Disturbance Theater developed an attack tool called FloodNet that overloaded web servers and kept others from being able to access their services.  Hackers used this tool in attacks against the U.S. Pentagon, Mexican government websites, and various business targets as a means of protest against their activities and policies.

More widely known is the group Anonymous -- who target government and private industry targets whom they perceive have restricted freedom of the Internet – who have committed countless attacks on government and industry Internet presences (p 345). Dawn (2001, p 14) further outlines that hackers could be enticed to support terrorists in their activities.  A recent development in this context has been reported whereby Daesh has used the ‘email scam’ technique with a twist to obtain funds. It was reported on radio station 3AW (Melbourne) that Daesh operatives have targeted Australian online small business with the domain name suffix they establish a similar domain name leaving out the au. Accounts are then sent to their customers for payment. It was reported the Federal Bureau of Investigation have tracked the transfer of funds to Syria.

Methods – what ICT platforms are used.

This paper has outlined how terrorists have used ICT to achieve specific ends such as propaganda, recruitment and operations: these are very much the ‘macro’. Throughout that discussion several ICT platforms have been mentioned – the micro -- this paper will now change track focusing on these modes.

Brachman (2006, p 151) argues that “[t]hroughout history, individuals, groups, and networks from across the ideological spectrum have harnessed emerging technologies in order to advance their own political and social agendas.”  The first of these technologies was the printing press: printing in the western sphere is said to have been invented by Johann Gutenberg in the thirteenth century. Recichl (1990, p 288-9) explains that it was not until the industrial revolution and the harnessing of steam power in the nineteenth century was mass production of printed material possible. It is argued  by Gildea (1988, p 250-1) that as the cost of printing came down the accessibility of the material proportionally increased resulting in a demand for ‘encyclopaedic’ knowledge. This was harnessed by those who were critical of regimes: Pierre-Jules Hetzel is a notable example who published Victor Hugo’s attacks on the dictatorial regime of Louis-Napoleon (p 251). The Anarchists of the era harnessed the power of this medium, Kiriakva (2011, p 40) outlines, to promote their notion of ‘propaganda of deed.’

Printed materials have served as a very effective means of promoting the ideology and methods of terrorist organisations. Ingram (2015, p 734), in his analysis of key publications by terrorist groups, argues that there is “… universal agreement regarding the central strategic role IO [information operations] must play as a means to shape how contested populations perceive a conflict, evaluate ‘competing politico-military apparatuses … and make decisions about who to support.” Furthermore, the writing of doctrine has been an important part of furthering the aims of jihadist. For instance, Brynjar (2007(a)) outlines how the Syrian al-Suri used his military training and studies in engineering to produce a series of books which combined practical and spiritual training. The need for this is highlighted in his words: “people came to us with empty heads and leave with empty heads. They have done nothing for Islam. This is because they have not received any ideological or doctrinal training.” Not only have terrorist published materials but they have relied on the publications of others; for instance, Kenney (2010, p 179) explains that the Irish Republican Army only mastered the use of mortars when they obtained copies of military reference books. Furthermore, a State Department (U.S.) official told him that the “Islamists are good at knowing what we know … They gather information about police activities and Western society in general through the press, books…” etc. (p 191).

However, the use of printed material has its limitations: it is next to useless if a person is illiterate. Naturally this can be overcome by face to face interactions such as giving speeches. Gildea (1998, p 250) highlighted that these issues were overcome somewhat in the 1850s with the growth of the railway: a person could go on a ‘tour’ promoting their ideological viewpoint. Not very efficient, however, as a considerable amount of time needs to be devoted to this activity. A technological solution would come to pass with the development of cassette tapes. For instance, the aforementioned writer al-Suri’s messages were distributed throughout Afghanistan by the way of speeches recorded on cassette tapes: the same was the case for the message of bin Laden (Brynjar, 2007(a)). Such recording is not limited to audio: Hoffman (2006, p 221) outlines how Chechen rebels pioneered the recording of their operations which were later distributed on media platforms such as video tape. Their leader Khattab outlined the benefit of these methods: “… if they killed a few Russian soldiers in an ambush along the road the impact of the strike was limited, however if the operation was filmed and then shown to the Russian people that impact was multiplied manifold.” This goes to highlight the focus of terrorism on causing fear to achieve their aims rather than through the use of arms

A major revolution, according to Hoffman (2006, p 178), occurred in 1968 with the launch of the commercial satellite: this enabled messages to be sent instantaneously around the globe. Therefore, a terrorist group could obtain live international coverage of their actions: the 1972 Munich Olympics attack is a prime example. Hoffman further highlights the need to ‘feed the news’ has led to immense competition among networks – particularly those emanated from the United States – to obtain exclusives. An example he have was the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 when the Washington Post published an editorial criticising the behaviour of the networks. The benefit of this media was not overlooked by Jihadist. For instance, Bergen (2001, p 1) explains how when working for CNN (Cable News Network)  he was sought out by Bin Laden to conduct his first English language interview due to the coverage and reputation of the network. As his security condition deteriorated following the 9/11 attacks Bin Laden provided pre-recorded messages to the Qatar based Al Jazeera network that were subsequently broadcast. Eedles (2002, p 24) highlights that “… al-Qaeda has frequently used Al-Jazerra to address Muslims it wants to woo, [and] Westerners it wants to frighten.” Nonetheless, Hoffman (2006, p 200) states that as “… long as editorial power was rested ultimately in the pro-establishment, capitalist elite, many revolutionaries concluded, their message would always be diluted misconstrued, or seized upon for its ‘entertainment’ value[.]”

In the Middle East, Hezbollah came up with a novel solution: establishing their own television station al-Manar in 1991 (Hoffman, 2006, p 200). Originally a small terrestrial station it grew into a twenty-four hour satellite network. Hoffman (2006, p 200) quotes a 2002 Gallop Poll which outlined that it was the fifth most popular network and the sphere of world affairs it is the third. The success of the network soon became a focus of Hezbollah operations which is evident from the following quote from a United Nations official: “For Hezbollah, 60 percent of the success of an operation depends on getting some good footage…” (p 200). That might be fine for a discreet area like the Middle East but how can you manage your message to a worldwide audience: the Internet would fulfil this role.

Clough (2010, p 135) outlines that the “… Internet has transformed the way in which we communicate by allowing large amounts of data to be transferred rapidly and easily, throughout the world, at low cost. The Internet evolved from a system designed by the United States military to remain active through a nuclear attack: if one connection is broken it reroutes through different connections (Steel, 2012, p 51). This system was adapted for the use of academic collaboration and eventually adopted by the commercial use in the 1990s. Its use is now so wide spread, according to Cought (2010, p 11), that is regarded as part of a city’s critical infrastructure on par with water, electricity and transport networks. It is argued that the use of the Internet can be grouped into two ‘generations’ the notion of which will be used to focus this discussion.

The first generation of the Internet was characterised by individual applications such as bulletin boards and newsgroups; these are electronic ‘meeting places’ where people can post comments and information on subjects which they are interested. Holt (2012, p 13) outlines these evolved from their previously unconnected systems of the 1980s and 90s when users would have to connect individually to each network by using a telephone to dial in. Such boards can be used to distribute printed material – such as training manuals – if they are converted to an electronic form such as Acrobat’s PDF format. The benefit of these groups were harnessed by al-Qaeda as early as 1996, Holt (2012, p 13) argues, initially overtly and subsequently following 9/11 would ‘hide’ messages within otherwise legitimate sites on topics such as sport. Once a person has posted messages on open bulletin board or newsgroups they can attract interest from terrorist spotters who will engage with them and may even invite them to join restricted access group (Perelman, Richman and Kafora, 2010, p 14). It is within this ‘dark web’ – that is websites obscured from public view – where the recruitment activities previously discussed can occur. Before moving on to discuss the second generation Internet it is worth mentioning Yahoo! Newsgroups. These are “… electronic groups … dedicated to a specific topic whereby members of the groups discuss the topic, post relevant articles and multimedia files, and share a meeting place for those with similar interests…” (Weimann and Von Knop, 2008, p 885). Brachman (2006, p 152) highlights the benefit of this platform for the spreading of an ideology: “Those searching for jihadi-orientated news updates can easily sign up for daily email feeds from one of the many jihadi email list servicer groups, many of which use the Yahoo! Web service.”

The second generation Internet came with the development of broadband Internet connects which were able to carry larger amounts of data. This enabled the development of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The power of these sites should not be underestimated; for instance, in his account of the Arab Spring, Bowen (2013, p 23) highlights how protest groups were able to harness the power of these platforms to threaten the regimes in the region. Facebook is similar to the newsgroups, which preceded it, where a user can post their views to others. However, the difference is that a person can create a mini-network of ‘friends’ whose posts they follow. There are secrecy setting on Facebook which enable the limiting of who can post or view one’s site and if their views are contrary to their own, they are similarly barred and posts deleted (Vander Veer, 2011, p 37). Twitter is a system were small massages can be sent which are received by people who follow particular topics or posters by the use of a hash tag: # (Fuchs, 2014, p 180). YouTube is a multimedia platform were users post videos which they have made: with relatively cheap equipment and digital video editing, equipment one can produce high-quality – and hence highly creditable – productions. These have proved particularly useful in distributing the previously discussed operational footage and allow a world-wide penetration which can only be hoped for by Hezbollah’s terrestrial television station. These platforms have the added advantage that they can be interlinked through the use of hyperlinks (Vander Veer, 2011, p 99). For instance, if a person wants to promote a particular video on YouTube they can post a comment with a link on both their Facebook and Twitter sites: everyone who is their friend on Facebook or follows the hash tags they part on Twitter will see the post. If those people do the same thing the visibility of the particular video which quickly expand.

Farwell (2014, p 50) argues that utilising these platforms in this manner is something which Daesh has become an expert to promote their propaganda: rather relying on media outlets such as Al-Jazeera to disseminate their message they do so right to the desktops, mobile phones and tablet devises of their supporters and sympathisers. Furthermore he states that Daesh “…has employed Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to influence adversaries, friends and journalists alike…” (p 50). The use of Twitter has proved to be very effective for Daesh in utilising its network of supports and sympathise Farwell argues Daesh “…members have used Twitter to document their experiences and talk to other fighters…  the group to enlist apparently thousands of activists to repeatedly tweet hashtags so that they trend on the social network…” (p 51).

In concluding this paper it is worthwhile to again revisit the notions of what the aims of terrorism are. As described by Alexander and Klein (2003, p 495) terrorism is a form of psychological warfare: a tactic which is used to bring fear to a community so as to achieve the instigator’s political aims. It is true that the information revolution -- particularly the growth of  second generation Internet platforms – have benefited terrorist groups such as  Daesh in bring the jihad into the living rooms and especially the bedrooms of their supporters and sympathises or just the disillusioned looking for a purpose. Throughout this paper – especially the third section – one theme has stood out, that is that terrorist groups have harnessed emerging technologies – from the printing press to the Internet – to provide them them with an advantage. As Al-Suri has observed, jihadi movement is military weak: “the enemy dominates the air, ground and sea” (Brynjar, 2007). Nevertheless, it should be remembered that ICT and the Internet is a tool, a powerful tool but a tool none the less it is the manner in which the tool is used which is important. Modern terrorists have become very good at harnessing the new tools which ICT supplies just like their counterparts were able to harness the tools which steam provided in the nineteenth century. In closing it is worth reflecting on the following quote from Dwan (2001, p 15) where he compares propaganda from the Second World War with Jihadist postings on the Internet:

The vitriolic content of the radio broadcasts of William Joyce (aka Lord Haw Haw) during World War II would, I am sure, have made a classic hate and propaganda website today. While his speeches were regarded as a public service in Nazi Germany, their intended audience regarded them as quite the opposite.




Bartholet, J. (2001) Al Qaeda Runs for the Hills. Newsweek, 138(25), 20.

Bergen, P. (2001) Holy War Inc: Inside the secret world of Osama bin Laden. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Bowen, J. (2013) The Arab Uprisings: The people want the fall of the regime,  London: Simna Schuster.

Brachman, J. (2006) High-Tech Terror: Al-Qaeda’s use of new technology. The Flectcher Forum of World Affairs, 30(2), 149-164.

Brynjar, L. (2006, January) Al-Qaeda online: understanding jihadist Internet infrastructure. Jane’s Intelligence Review, 14-19.

Brynjar, L. (2007 (a)) Al-Suri’s Doctrines for Decentralized Jihadi Training – Part 1. Terrorism Monitor, 5(1).

Brynjar, L. (2007 (b)) Al-Suri’s Doctrines for Decentralized Jihadi Training – Part 2. Terrorism Monitor, 5(1).

Cary, S. (2009) The Tipping Point: Biological Terrorism. Journal of Strategic Security, 2(3), 13-24.

Clough, J. (2010) Principles of Cybercrime, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Davitt, E. (2008, March) Cyber-crime and terrorism ‘biggest challenges’. Australian Security Magazine, pp 12-13.

Dwan, B. (2001, November) Cyber-terrorism – Virtual for Who? Computer Fraud and Security, pp 12-14.

Eedles, P. (2002, August) Al-Qaeda takes fight for ‘hearts and minds’ to the web. Janes Intelligence Review, p 24-26.

Eilstrup-Sangiovanni, M. and Jones, C. (2008) Assessing the Dangers of Illicit Networks: Why al-Qaeda may be less threatening than many think. International Security, 33(2), 7-44.

Farwell, J. (2014) The Media Strategy of ISIS. Survival, 56(6), 49-55.

Fuchs, C. (2014) Social media: a critical introduction, Los Angles: Sage.

Gearson, J. (2002) ‘The Nature of Modern Terrorism.’ In Lawrence Freedman (ed) Superterrorism: Policy Responses, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Gildea, R. (1998) Barricades and Borders: Europe 1800 – 1914, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hoffman, B. (2006) Inside Terrorism, New York: Colombia University Press.

Holt, T. (2012) Exploring the Intersections of Technology, Crime and Terror. Terrorism and Political Violence, 24, 337-354.

Ingram, H. (2015) The strategic logic of Islamic State information operations. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 69(6), 729-752.

Kenney, M. (2010) Beyond the Internet: Metis, Techne, and the Limitations of Online Artifacts for Islamist Terrorists. Terrorism and Political Violence, 22, 177-197.

Kiriakova, M. (2011) Anarchism. In Gus Martin (ed) The Sage Encyclopedia of Terrorism, 2nd edn. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Knight, A. and Ubayasiri, K. (n.d.) eTerror: Journalism, Terrorism and the Internet.

Lewis, B. (2004) The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror, London: Phonix.

Lisater, C. (2014) Assessing Syria’s Jihad. Survival, 56(6), 87-112.

Magloff, L. (2011) Fatwa. In Gus Martin (ed) The Sage Encyclopedia of Terrorism, 2nd edn. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Manning-Butler, E. (2003, 17 June) Countering Terrorism: An international blueprint. Lecture presented at the Royal United Institute Conference: The Oversight of Intelligence and Security.

McHugh, R. (2011) Kurdish Workers’ party. In Gus Martin (ed) The Sage Encyclopedia of Terrorism, 2nd edn. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Misener, D. (2015, 8 December) France may consider public WiFi ban during emergencies. CBC News ( accessed on 9 December 2015)

Momas, T.  (2003) Al-Qaeda and the Internet: The Danger of ‘Cyperplanning.’ Parameters, 23(1), 112-123.

Musawi, M. (2010) Cheering for Osama: How Jihadists use Internet discussion forums. London: Quilliam.

Perelman, M. Richman, A and Kafora, S. (2010) Al Qaeda’s Exploitation of the Internet: For Terrorist Command, Control and Communication. Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International, 16 (1), 12 - 14.

Pinto, S. and Wardlaw, G. (1989). Political Violence, Canberra: Australian Institute.

Qin, J. Zhou, Y. Reid, E. Lai, G. and Chen, H. (2007) Analyzing terror campaigns on the Internet: Technical sophistication, content richness, and Web interactivity. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 65, 71-84.

Reichl, E. (1990) Printing. In Norma Dickley (eds) Funck and Wagnalls New Encyclopaedia, Vol 1, United States: Funck and Wagnalls

Richardson, L. (2006). What Terrorists Want, London: John Murray.

State Department (United States) (2006) Country Reports on Terrorism.

Steel, P. (2012) Digital Universe: The Global Telecommunications Revolution, Hoboken : Wiley.

Stohl, M. (2006) Cyber terrorism: a clear and present danger, the sum of all fears, breaking point or patriot games? Crime, Law, and Social Change, 46, 223-238. 

Sullivan, C. (2011) Irish Republican Army. In Gus Martin (ed) The Sage Encyclopedia of Terrorism, 2nd edn. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Suskind, R. (2006) The One Percent Doctrine: Deep inside America’s pursuit of its enemies since 9/11, New York: Simon and Schuster.

Torok, R. (2011) Facebook Jihad: A case study of recruitment discourses and strategies targeting a western female. In Craig Valli (ed) Proceedings of The 2nd International Cyber Resilience Conference, Perth: Security Research Centre Edith Cowan University.

Tucker, J. (1999) Historical Trends Related to Bioterrorism: An empirical analysis. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 5(4), 498-504.

Unger, C. (2011, December) Beyond bin Laden: Future trends in terrorism. Strategy: ASPI.

Vander Veer, E. (2011) Facebook: The missing manual, Beijing: O’Reily.

Weimann, G. (2004, March) How Modern Terrorism Uses the Internet. Special Report: United States Institute of Peace, 116, 1-12.

Weimann, G. (2006) Terror on the Internet: The New Arena The New Challenges, Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace Press.

Weimann, G. (2011) Cyber-Fatwas and Terrorism. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 34, 765-781.

Weimann, G. and Von Knop, K. (2008) Applying the Notion of Noise to Countering Online Terrorism. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 31, 883-909.

Williams, C. (2004) Terrorism Explained: The facts about terrorism and terrorist groups, Sydney: New Holland Publishers.

Wright, L. (2008, 2 June) The Rebellion Within. The New Yorker,  84(16), 37.


No comments:

Post a Comment