Report: Social media a growing means of communication for jihadists

Jihadists are increasingly turning to social media sites to exchange ideas and publicize their beliefs, according to a new report (.pdf) from the New America Foundation.

"It is only a matter of time before terrorists begin routinely using Twitter, Instagram, and other services in ongoing operations," says the report. "We have already seen this in a limited manner from al-Shabaab, which tweets its #JihadDispatches on recent battles."

Social media isn't likely to replace online forums as the hub of online conversation for jihadists, the report says, but Twitter can provide a more public means to respond to breaking news or live-tweet events.

As for the forums, the report found that Arabic-language jihadist forums are far more active and have more subscribers that the English-language ones, which the report argues is an indication that al-Qaeda's ideology remains uncommon in the West.

The report also notes that the main jihadist forums appear to be "vulnerable to takedowns --likely by a Western intelligence agency--but smaller forums easily fill the communication vacuum created in their absence." During the three-month research period for the report, the main forums were down for about two weeks.

For more:
- download the report, "The State of Global Jihad Online" (.pdf)

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