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Facebook Jihad By: Kathy Shaidle
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Following the Islamic terror attack in Mumbai, India in November, it was revealed that the tech-savvy terrorists used BlackBerries and Google Earth satellite-imaging to plan and carry out their atrocities.

It was the latest example of the West’s enemies employing 21st century technology to spread its 8th century ideology. It is also the most visible manifestation of a phenomenon that first came to the fore on September 11, 2001, and is spreading under the radar of ordinary people. Experts, however, are increasingly concerned about the spread of jihadist jujitsu – that is, of Muslim terrorists’ use of Western technology to destroy the West itself.

For example, the monitoring service SITE Intelligence Group revealed last month that Islamic extremists are being instructed on how to use the popular video-sharing site YouTube as a way to disseminate propaganda videos.

A post at a password-protected forum run by a group calling itself Fursan Ghazawat Alnusra (“Knights in Support of the Invasion”) offered step-by-step instructions to Islamist sympathizers on how to post videos to YouTube. The Knights called for a “YouTube Invasion”, adding, “American politicians have used Facebook to get votes, like the house slave Obama. (...) Today we invade your sites, tomorrow your lands and homes, o you cross worshippers.”

Just days later, the SITE Group reported that the same radical group was calling for an “invasion of Facebook”, the hugely popular social networking site.

“We will use Facebook as a new and exclusive media tool to fight the media offensive on jihadist media, its forums, and its websites and in order to reveal the Crusaders,” boasted the Knights poster. “Let us start to post publications, articles, Islamic and jihadist pictures.”

Both Facebook and YouTube have strict official guidelines and terms of use allowing them to remove videos and sites that advocate violence, racism and the like. However, the companies respond unevenly to complaints, and their rationales for deleting files are occasionally suspect and arbitrary, with popular videos posted by American conservatives being pulled down from YouTube for what some call dubious “copyright violations”. Given that Facebook’s is over 140 million and rising, constant monitoring is simple impossible, and both YouTube and Facebook seem to rely upon outside observers to bring violations to their attention. Furthermore, banned users can easily set up replacement websites under false names. By stripping out trigger words like “terrorism” that are sure to get their sites banned, they can outrun the YouTube and Facebook monitors a little longer.

For example, Facebook shut down the Knights in Support of the Invasion group on December 19, after FOX News reported on the SITE Group’s revelations, and worked with a “former radical Muslim” to gain access to the Knights’ members-only pages. These pages, said FOX, included film of the beheading of an Egyptian “traitor” and a video statement by a “soon to be homicide bomber.”

The web’s international reach means that online jihad has no boundaries, making it even harder to police. A new study by the UK’s Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) revealed the extent to which British Muslim radicals were using Internet tools for recruitment, training and propaganda.

Particularly revealing was the discovery last month that a well-known Muslim spokesman, often interviewed on the BBC as a “mainstream moderate”, had been posting anti-Semitic screeds on Facebook, assuring readers that “any Muslim who fights against Israel and dies is a martyr and will be granted paradise.”

According to the CSC, Asghar Bukhari of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee was using Facebook to “openly glorify terrorism,” which is now a crime in the UK. However, Bukhari has yet to be charged, despite the international media attention this news has received.

Other recent reports from around the world point to Hezbollah’s use of Israeli soldiers’ Facebook account information as a source of intelligence, and a possible way to trick soldier’s into meeting a Facebook “friend” in person who turns out to be a Hezbollah terrorist.

Marc Lynch (author of Voices of the New Arab Public: Iraq, al-Jazeera, and Middle East Politics Today) blogs at Foreign Policy Magazine online, and is an expert on the use of modern information technology by Islamic terrorists.

He believes that the same information technology trends that enable terrorists to carry out attacks – as occurred in Mumbai – diminish their ability to spread their propaganda, because the technology is available to its enemies: that is, us.

“One way to think about how [al-Qaeda] will adapt to new information technologies,” wrote Lynch in November 2008, “is to look at how they adapted to past innovations.” For instance, Al-Jazeera and other Arabic satellite television counterparts helped spread the ideas of al-Qaeda throughout the world during the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, “this has had dramatically diminishing returns over the last few years,” due to fragmentation of the Arab media market and other complex developments. Again, the same ubiquity and ease of use that make new media so appealing to terrorists also makes them easy to use for counter-terrorist purposes.

Lynch also points out that debates between radical Muslim members on online forums and chat rooms can actually “undermine moral or turn into open dissent, to the dismay of movement leaders.” (“Plus,” Lynch adds, video download sites “often feature ads for pornography (...) while you're waiting... I'll leave it to you to decide whether that's a glitch or a feature for the jihadists downloading their bin Laden videos.”)

Finally, Lynch dismisses the “hype over terrorist use of virtual worlds” as online training centers.

“I suppose that virtual worlds could become a form of hijra, or an area for creating a virtual caliphate ruled by virtual sharia or something,” says Lynch. “If the [al-Qaeda] Virtual World is anything like the actual world in areas ruled by like-minded groups (Taliban, Islamic State of Iraq) then virtual exposure to it might again drive people away rather than attract them.”

Lynch concludes his report with the words, “I just hope that this post doesn't give the wrong people any ideas!”

But sure enough, in an irony that is certainly a depressing sign of the times, was quickly reposted at IkhwanWeb – the official English language website of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury.com. Her new book exposing abuses by Canada’s Human Rights Commissions, The Tyranny of Nice, includes an introduction by Mark Steyn.

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