- Posted October 18, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
US Embassy Threat in Uganda Forecast via Facebook
A cursory examination of Al-Shabab on social media over the last five years would predict the rise of the growing menace we now see.
Al-Shabab as a group has been an expert at manipulating social media to its advantage. Whether via twitter as we saw during the Westgate mall attack, or on Youtube with videos directed to English speaking audiences or on Facebook where Al-Shabab has maintained a persistent presence.
Many experts are surprised at the extent to which Al-Shabab (a designated terrorist group) is allowed to remain on these platforms. As a terrorist group it has recruited from numerous western countries as we also saw in the makeup of the Westgate mall attackers.
The next battle in the fight to prevent violent extremism has yet to be waged on social media. Removing the virtual voice of the terrorists will allow us to silence part of the threat. A strong counter narrative is another tool we can use to challenge the distorted message of these organizations.
While there has been much talk about "big brother" and our loss of personal freedoms when it comes to the internet, this is yet another example of how intelligence gathering and analysis can save lives.
The bigger picture is the ability to divert people away from a path that may lead to violent extremism. It's an approach that does not necessarily require criminalization, but does require a conversation and an ability to identify people at risk.
About the Author: Jeff Weyers is a PhD student in the Tactical Decision Making Research Unit at the University of Liverpool. He holds a Graduate Certificate in Intelligence and Security Studies from the University of Ottawa, a Diploma in Law and Security Administration from Conestoga College, a B.A. in Psychology and Biology from Wilfrid Laurier University and finally a M.Sc. in Investigative Psychology from the University of Liverpool.
Jeff has trained in the areas of Anti-Terrorism Training, Intelligence and Security, Major Case Investigations, Drug Enforcement, and Interviewing and Interrogation. Jeff is currently studying the risk assessment of terrorist groups and individuals vulnerable to recruitment.