As part of their online media strategy, jihadi groups have in recent years begun using Western websites and technologies – uploading videos to YouTube and to the Internet Archive, creating official Facebook pages, and tweeting news flashes from the jihadi fronts. Jihadis have come to depend on free web hosting, where content can be uploaded anonymously, reliably, and at no cost.
Headquartered in San Francisco, California and with servers in San Antonio, Texas, Boston, Massachusetts, and New York, Twitter – the online social networking and microblogging service – is increasingly being used by terrorist organizations and their media outlets, and their online followers are growing in number. Twitter’s Terms of Service include some “restrictions on content” but do not mention terrorist groups.
One of the many jihadi groups now utilizing Twitter is Al-Qaeda and its followers. After the deaths of Anwar Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were confirmed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP), online jihadi activists reacted by calling for flooding American websites and social networking sites including Twitter with their speeches, writings, and videos.
A member of the Shumoukh Al-Islam forum declared in English: “Together for Islamizing [the] U.S.A. I want to see the American forums, websites, YouTube channels, and Twitter full of Sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki’s lectures and videos. It will be a curse chasing the Americans and their dogs.” He added in Arabic: “To the lions of uploading and [online] distribution, to the students of Anwar Al-Awlaki… ‘I entrust you with supporting your brothers, the mujahideen, with this knowledge… we shall spread their actions and the truth… You are the hope of the ummah, you are the hope of jihad… Let it be a vengeance raid for our sheikh, Al-Awlaki. We want a raid of every American forum, every Facebook page, every Twitter account…”
MEMRI’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor research includes following the multiple ways in which jihadi groups are using Twitter. Among them are sharing videos, operational activities, and more. One example of such use, dated November 1, 2011, is the “retweet” by Twitter user @sssq61 of an item from a jihadi site which called for readers to contribute and to make efforts to bring about a kidnapping of a U.S. soldier.
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