Be careful who you friend: an Israeli researcher is claiming that international terrorist organizations are increasingly focusing on social media as a way of drumming up support.
"Today, about 90 percent of organized terrorism on the internet is being carried out through the social media," says Professor Gabriel Weimann of the University of Haifa.
"By using these tools, the organizations are able to be active in recruiting new friends without geographical limitations."
According to Professor Weimann, terrorist organizations are taking advantage of Facebook, chat rooms, YouTube, Myspace and other sites.
"The social media is enabling the terror organizations to take initiatives by making ‘Friend’ requests, uploading video clips, and the like, and they no longer have to make do with the passive tools available on regular websites," he says.
Such groups are also taking advantage of social networks as a way of gathering intelligence, says Weimann, with Hezbollah monitoring the Israeli army’s Facebook activity. Indeed, many countries, including the USA, Canada and the UK, have ordered soldiers to remove personal information from Facebook in case Al Qaeda's monitoring it.
"Facebook has become a great place to obtain intelligence. Many users don’t even bother finding out who they are confirming as ‘Friend’ and to whom they are providing access to a large amount of information on their personal life," says Weimann.
"The terrorists themselves, in parallel, are able to create false profiles that enable them to get into highly visible groups."
And for terror organizations, he claims, social media is a chance to share ‘professional’ information, with terrirosts openly swapping onformation on how to create bombs.
"The most advanced of Western communication technology is, paradoxically, what the terror organizations are now using to fight the West," Weimann warns.