War is nothing new for Americans. It is estimated, in fact, that the United States has been embroiled in a conflict for some 222 of the past 240 years, or more than 90 percent of its very life as a nation. But the war that America finds itself currently enmeshed in with ISIS is unlike any other in the country’s history. During the Vietnam War, we knew who we were fighting, and where we were fighting—just as we had during the Great Sioux War, World War I, World War II, the Gulf War, the Iraq war, and even the war in Afghanistan. But with ISIS—an inchoate confederacy of like-minded thugs spread across a region, and increasingly, across the globe—we know none of these things. And a lot of this has to do with technology.
ISIS uses technology better than most tech start-ups. Ghost Security Group, a counterterrorism organization, has noted in the past that ISIS utilizes almost every social app imaginable to communicate and share its propaganda, including mainstays like Twitter and Facebook; encrypted chat apps such as Telegram, Surespot, and Threema; and messaging platforms including Kik and WhatsApp. The terror group shares videos of beheadings on YouTube and even more gruesome clips on LiveLeak. They use the remarkably secure Apple iMessage to communicate. They preach to their disciples across the world using Internet radio stations. When a terror attack takes place, they use Twitter to claim responsibility and their followers subsequently cheer with favorites and retweets. Perhaps most frighteningly, the group’s dominance as a modern-day terror network is visible through how quickly their social-media dominance is accelerating.
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Digital Colorization by Ben Park; From Alamy.