Abu Dhabi

'Tech-savvy terrorists using social media to target youngsters'

Jasmine Al Kuttab/Abu Dhabi
Filed on March 29, 2017
Tech-savvy terrorists using social media to target youngsters
INTERPOL UN Executive Director of the Counter Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), Jean-Paul Laborde(L), Interpol Foundation President Elias Murr(C), David Lewis(R) speaks during a panel discussion on counter terrorism during Interpol Conference held at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, March 29,2017. Photo By Ryan Lim

"A lot of countries are ignoring this issue and not addressing how to tackle it efficiently."

As many as 360,000 Twitter accounts with Daesh links have been shut down just last month, said George Salama, Twitter's Head of Public Policy and Government Relations, MENA.

"This is not a solution to the problem, but it is part of the solution, and an example of how private companies can help combat terrorism," Salama said.

During a panel discussion on the second day of the Unity for Security Forum in Abu Dhabi, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed AL Nahyan, President of the UAE, security experts were discussing how tech-savvy terrorists are using social media as a weapon to gain superiority among the public.

"Daesh have succeeded to take over various countries around the world, they have managed to successfully terrorise people because of their superiority, which they were able to achieve through social media," said Elias Murr, the Former Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon, Minister of Defence and Interior, and the President of Interpol Foundation for a Safer World.

"Terrorists are using their practices and shooting videos, and are eventually gaining further recruitment." He stressed that global terrorism is now imminent and more complex than ever, and as the number of conflict zones continue to increase, so does their multiple fronts, on which they operate simultaneously.

Thus, the new generation of terrorists are ahead of the game when it comes to using social media platforms as a tool to voice their violent strategies and hunt for their next young targets.

"As we can see, Daesh has won its war - as far as public opinion is concerned - because of the technologies they are using to their advantage.

"A lot of countries are ignoring this issue and not addressing how to tackle it efficiently."

'Terrorists are ahead of us'

The threat posed by online terrorist recruitment globally is unprecedented, and the availability of violent propaganda and literature, is growing exceptionally, which is also changing the ways terrorists are targeting, radicalising and recruiting youngsters.

"Between us and terrorists, they are five years ahead of us," said Murr, noting that governments must strengthen their experience and place dynamic strategies against online threats.

Jean-Paul Laborde, Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, said more terrorists today are utilising social media to recruit, adding that the threats are fluctuating and have become unreachable.

"Counter-terrorism is a question of speed; we have terrorists that are acting quickly, yet we have governments that are not following the same pace."

He pointed out that terrorists are not born, but are made, particularly because of social issues, including poverty and the lack of education, which governments must also address. "The birth of terrorism comes from poverty."

However, Twitter's Head of Public Policy and Government Relations - MENA, argued that last month's 360,000 Daesh Twitter account shut-down, does not mean they necessarily came from poverty. "We, as decision makers, have to spread healthy thoughts, particularly among the youth, who are targeted by terrorist recruiters online."

Salama pointed out that authorities must thus create new technological innovations to speed up their tackling strategies and develop a solid methodology that addresses, yet challenges terrorists' digital activities.

"Many of the youth recruited are actually not living in poverty, nor are they un-educated, yet they are still joining terrorist organistaions."




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