Jihadis’ Responses To Widespread Decline In Participation On Jihadi Forums; Increased Use Of Twitter

March 29, 2013

Introduction

Over the past decade, the Internet has played a crucial role in disseminating Al-Qaeda’s materials and propaganda. Even before the advent of social media, websites and forums played a central part in sustaining the so-called jihadi media front.[1] Participants on these websites and forums are often referred to as “online jihadis”; the term applies not only to individuals whose activity is confined to cyberspace, but also to those who participate in physical jihad in addition to their online activities.

In the past few years, online jihadis have come to rely more and more on social media such as Twitter and Facebook – especially on the former.[2] In 2012, prominent jihadi forum members such as Asad Al-Jihad2 and Wamid Qalam opened Twitter accounts.[3] Others – including Salafi-jihadi cleric Abu Sa’d Al-‘Amili, various online jihadi “media companies” such as Fursan Al-Balagh,[4] and designated terrorists like American Al-Shabab operative ‘Omar Hammami[5] – maintain a presence on Twitter as well.[6] Twitter is also used by designated terrorist groups such as the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Somali group Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen and the Taliban.

The increasing use of social media has been linked to repeated cyber-attacks on the top jihadi forums such as Shumoukh Al-Islam and Al-Fida’ – attacks which have frequently shut them down for long periods of time.[7] This has caused a noticeable decline in the use of the jihadi forums (as the administrators of these forums, and prominent writers on them, have noted with concern).[8] Despite this decline, jihadi forums still maintain their status as the sole trusted platform for Al-Qaeda’s official publications – but signs indicate that this too may be changing, as will be shown below.

This report reviews the jihadis’ increasing reliance on Twitter (which currently seems to be favored by the jihadis over Facebook), the impact of this trend on the jihadi forums, and the jihadis’ responses to it.

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