According to recent reporting from the Long War Journal and SITE Intelligence Group, Ansar al-Sharia Libya has announced the opening of its first Twitter feed. And how did they make this announcement? Take a long, hard guess. Facebook. From an analyst’s perspective, this reporting is significant for multiple reasons.
First, Ansar al-Sharia Libya is the same group responsible for the 9/11 Benghazi attack that killed four good Americans. Jack and Brandon have continued to provide timely and accurate updates regarding the failures that enabled Ansar al-Sharia Libya to conduct such a deadly attack in 2012. However, with the opening of the Ansar al-Sharia Libya Twitter account, it is evident that the group has yet to be brought to justice, and continues to expand.
Second, the fact that this very same group is expanding its information operations capability through social media is indicative of the group’s intent to expand its reach and voice to any potential followers on a larger, global scale. Just like SOFREP reported at the beginning of October, al Qaeda clearly recognizes the value of rapid information exchange, data sharing, and the inter-connectivity that social media provides. The fact that Ansar al-Sharia Libya made this announcement via Facebook drives this point home. The ability of terrorist organizations to utilize social media platforms such as Twitter remains a constant and increasing threat for US counterterrorism operations and strategy.
Third, with an increasing number of terrorist organizations and personalities continuing to join the ranks of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, additional policing efforts will be required. As of early 2013, Twitter was already having a difficult time upholding its “zero tolerance” policy regarding violence and illegal activity. The practice of identifying and suspending or shutting down actual terrorist accounts is a struggle not unlike the game of Whac-a-Mole, and a constant one at that. With increased terrorist presence on social media, increased policing is also required.
Finally, given al Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia Libya, and al Shabaab’s choice of social media platforms, an additional and more subliminal threat to US national security is now posed by terrorist organizations. Whereas jihad hopefuls in the past had to physically travel to various terrorist hotbeds in order to get their dose of jihad tourism, various terrorist organizations are now much more accessible to everyday citizens or otherwise moderate individuals around the world. Considering that over 550,000,000 people use Twitter alone, increasingly greater numbers of non-radicals are now potentially at risk for exposure to terrorist propaganda. This exposure could be leveraged by terrorist organizations to either motivate individuals or groups to physically travel to terrorist hotbeds in support of a holy war, or could inspire them to take action in their local area, more in keeping with a “homegrown” or “lone wolf” attack style.
Thanks for listening.
Feature image taken from Ansar al-Sharia Libya’s Twitter account. Check out the Long War Journal for the link to their official account.