With the proliferation of internet users in recent years, social media has become a new platform for the dissemination of radicalized ideologies of Islamic State (IS) terrorist groups. In the past, having physical proximity to potential recruits was a necessity in communicating these ideas, modern innovations such as the internet have now allowed for fast and efficient communication between the leaders of IS terrorist groups and their potential supporters.
Out of 7.7 billion people on Earth, 3.1 billion are active on social media. Indonesia, with a population of 269 million people, has 171.26 million internet users, most of whom are on social media.[i] Younger users are generally more susceptible to ideas and easily influenced than other age groups. In Indonesia, 64% of social media users are teenagers. Terrorist organizations, therefore, have easy access and more discreet methods of reaching a younger audience without needing to meet with said teenagers physically. Around 90% of IS communication is done using social networking tools[ii]. Parents, on the other hand, have had a difficult time censoring these radical ideas from their children, as the anonymity of social media has made it increasingly difficult to monitor the online activity of their kids.
Social media is generally viewed as a platform targeted at Millennials or GenZ. Although this may not be entirely true, this perception has created a warped view of the audience age of the international digital society in the eyes of people around the world. A study conducted by the Journal of Adolescence (2017) found out that teens are more likely to change their opinions on social issues toward the views of other adolescents than any other age group[iii]. As social media is used mostly by adolescents, and the international social opinion on social media is that it is used mostly by adolescents, children will more easily be persuaded on social media by a radical thinker, than in face to face communication. This is the key reason as to why regulations on the type of content posted have been put in place.
Under the Information and Electronic Transactions Act (ITE) in Indonesia, the government has enforced strict laws that prohibit the use of ITE as a means to intimidate or spread hatred against another person or group. [iv](Clause 27 Subsection 1-4. [v]). Although this law is regularly enforced, cyberterrorists always work in between the margins and find ways to utilise social media to their advantage. Certain hacker groups that specifically target cyberterrorists are constantly at work as well, leaking accounts affiliated with radical IS groups. The hacker group Anonymous was able to leak information of Twitter accounts affiliated with ISIS. Two other hacker groups supported Anonymous: GhostSec and Crtlsec. 9,200 Twitter accounts were uncovered, all of which used propaganda to support IS.[vi]
Image 1: A Twitter’s Post from @ctrlsec
However, due to Social Media sites being free and easy to use, whenever a site or account is taken down by the government or an NGO, a new site will jump up in its place within minutes.
In terms of Social media sites and the policies they put in place to regulate these types of accounts, Facebook's community guidelines are quite inclusive and have been known to supervise their user's accounts quite precisely. According to their community standard Section 1, subsection I, 1 - 6, they practice inclusive and safe policies[vii]. Facebook's cyberterrorism policies have created a safe environment for people to share and post information. Comparaed to other social media sites like Instagram, Facebook has had more time and resources to develop their cybercrime policies as they are one of the oldest social media sites that are still relevant in today's society. When it comes to other newer features, though, Facebook has recognized the difficult challenges they face in terms of live streaming in relation to content safety. A Facebook spokesperson mentioned that they had had a difficult time censoring the live stream, as it is hard to determine the risk streamers pose to their safety policies after only monitoring the written content[viii].
Twitter, on the other hand, as mentioned before, is known for having several accounts that support radical religious ideologies. 1 June 2015, a twitter account named @isiskalimantan was created and continued to post dozens of tweets in support of ISIS. One tweet, made on 4 October 2015 stated that "kalimantan juga dukung isis", which translates to 'Kalimantan also supports ISIS.[ix] These tweets were statements made from an account acting within its interests, and although false, when read by a young audience more susceptible to new ideas, can seriously influence their way of thinking. As the name ‘isiskalimantan’ sounds quite official, audiences would assume this account to be verified.
Lately, it has become increasingly clear that the threat of Cyberterrorism has become more prevalent today than ever before. The children of the 2020s will be the pioneers of tomorrow, which is why governments, NGO's, and parents especially should take sufficient precautionary methods to place regulations on the usage of social media. Radical ideologies exist in all walks in life. As social media happens to be the dominating form of communication, it should be noted that these terrorist organizations will continue to utilize social media as a means to reach these younger audiences.
[i] Clement, J .(2020). "Number of Internet users in selected countries." Statista. https://www.newsweek.com/anonymous-sees-9200-isis-linked-twitter-accounts-314116 [Accessed 21 January. 2020]
[ii] Weimann, Gabriel, (2014). “NewTerrorism and New Media”. Wilson Center. Quoted from Evan Kohlmann. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/new_terrorism_v3_1.pdf [Accessed 29 January 2020]
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5614112/. 10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.07.002 [Accessed 29 January 2020]
[iv] Diponegoro Law Journal. (2016). “Kebijakan Hukum Pidana Dalam Upaya Penegakan Tindak Pidana Pencemaran Nama Baik Melalui Twitter”. 5th. .https://media.neliti.com/media/publications/19333-ID-kebijakan-hukum-pidana-dalam-upaya-penegakan-tindak-pidana-pencemaran-nama-baik.pdf [Accessed 23 January 2020]
[v] Universitas Pembangunan Panca Budi, Indonesia. (2018). “Cybercrime case on social media in Indonesia”. Internation Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET) (p.3)
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327335371_Cybercrime_case_on_social_media_in_Indonesia [Accessed 23 January 2020]
[vi] Mosendz, Polly. (2015).“Anonymous sees 9200 ISIS-Linked Twitter accounts.” Newsweek. https://www.newsweek.com/anonymous-sees-9200-isis-linked-twitter-accounts-314116 [Accessed 23 January 2020]
[vii] Facebook Community Standards (2020). Violence and Criminal Behaviour. https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards/credible_violence/ [Accessed 2 Feb 2020]
[viii] AFP (2015). The Times Israel. “Facebook aiding probe of France live streamed video at killing.” https://www.timesofisrael.com/facebook-aiding-probe-of-france-live-streamed-video-at-killing/ [Accessed 2 Feb 2020]
[ix] Tribunnews (2015). “Heboh! Muncul akun Twitter ISIS Kalimantan yang Menampilkan Foto-foto Simpatisannya di Loksado”. https://banjarmasin.tribunnews.com/2015/11/24/heboh-muncul-akun-twitter-isis-kalimantan-yang-menampilkan-foto-foto-simpatisannya-di-loksado?page=2 [Accessed 22 January]