Monday, November 16, 2015

Social Media tools can help in fight against terror

Social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, are very convenient, affordable and can be reached to mass very quickly and efficiently. These tools have been very useful in case of crisis management, emergencies and spreading humanitarian messages. This is being used for e-commerce also by business organizations. However, in recent past a few terrorist groups have increasingly used social media to further their goals and spread their message. Terrorist organizations depend on the open media systems of democratic countries to further their message and goals. The terrorist threat to a wider audience, particularly in the open and pluralistic countries of the West is easy to be propagated through social media. The recent example is threat to France for more terrorist attacks. In principle, media organization are neither propagating nor supporting the goals of terrorist organization. However they are doing their job to report current events and issues. In the fiercely competitive media environment, when a terrorist attack occurs, media outlets scramble to cover the event. In doing so the media also spreads the messages of terrorist organizations.

In a study by Gabriel Weimann from the University of Haifa, Weimann found that nearly 90% of organized terrorism on the internet takes place via social media. According to Weimann, terror groups use social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and internet forums to spread their messages, recruit members and gather intelligence.

Some U.S. government officials have urged social media companies to stop hosting content from terror groups. In 2008, Lieberman and the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs issued a report titled "Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat". The report stated that the internet is one of the "primary drivers" of the terrorist threat to the United States.

In January 2012, Twitter announced changes to their censorship policy, stating that they would now be censoring tweets in certain countries when the tweets risked breaking the local laws of that country. The reason behind the move was stated to restrict certain types of content. However, it may be good strategy to censor tweets, it may have been more successful, if, such tweets are shared with concerned intelligence agencies also.  Unfortunately, current U.S. law gives few incentives for companies like YouTube for volunteering information on illicit activity, or even cooperating when requested by U.S. law enforcement. If such companies are to be trusted to self-police their own professed commitments to fighting hate speech, and incentive is granted to share such contents with intelligence agencies without removing their blogs, tweets etc. then the intelligence agencies can take more effective steps. Further, the public relation should step in to the business of engaging with social media for blogging, tweeting etc. against the hate speeches etc. Thus social media is capable of helping nations to fight against terror, if it is efficiently and effectively used without politics.

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