Terror on Twitter: How the Internet is used to Spread Propaganda

In an age of technology and fast-changing media, our thoughts and messages can be spread in a matter of minutes to millions of people. It’s these amazing new communication processes that have changed everything from business and advertising, to socializing and getting to know new people. And as with all improvements and advancements come abusers and negative uses of it.

News channels used to be the only way that terror was quickly spread. Anchors would break into programming to announce that a building was under attack or that there was someone in a building on a shooting rampage. While you can still see terror reports on television, the internet is now being used to spread negative propaganda. You can see a news story almost as soon as it takes place if you are online at the right moment. Terror today isn’t what it used to be. We’ve gone from active demonstrations and protests to something a lot more subtle and sinister online. But how are terrorists spreading their message, and why is it able to reach so many?

Social Media

Almost everyone uses some type of social media site, such as Facebook or Twitter. Once a story develops, it is often picked up by someone and spread on social media. In a study by Gabriel Weimann from the University of Haifa, it was found that nearly 90% of organized terrorism on the internet takes place via social media. Because of its easy access and broad reach, social media is the ideal place to engage with new audiences and spread a message to as many people as possible. The group Al-Qaeda has been noted to use media such as audio and video messages online to attract attention, spread a message, and grow their movement. Another group famous for this type of propaganda is ISIS who used threatening videos of beheadings to spread their message of terror.


A picture is worth a thousand words, and the internet is a place where no picture is safe. Photographers, journalists, and news channels often edit or leave off just enough so the real story isn’t revealed behind pictures you see in the media. Terrorists are just as guilty. Making their efforts seem bold and brave through framing, editing, and wording around videos and pictures. Just like social media, photographs online are used as part of propaganda to get people joined under a cause, or to cause terror.

Paid To Spread

Those with a degree in diplomacy know that it’s best to be devoted to your home country and will try to stay true to those country’s ideals. However, terrorists know that if government officials or even citizens are given enough money or enough of a reward, they can use their own accounts and online presence to do their work for them. There is little concrete evidence, but still enough to say that governments and terrorists alike pay to have trolls comment on political content or media coverage of certain events. Sometimes these trolls are used to recruit others to terrorist campaigns.

Fast Coverage

Many newspapers are now online and you can see the front page of a newspaper online before it’s in print. This means that propaganda is spread much faster, making people feel a certain way before they get the whole story. It’s a way for news outlets to give their opinion to the general public in the fastest way possible in a world where most people have turned to electronic sources, such as their phone or laptop. The quick spread of stories is just another way terrorists take advantage of the internet and use it to propel their message.

What’s Being Done?

Efforts have been made by various governing bodies to try and mediate these online accounts with little and limited success.

In 2012, Twitter changed its censorship policy and would now censor tweets from certain countries as part of the effort to shut down and block terror content. The move was met with division however, with criticism from many that this move is a threat to free speech online. Toeing the line between the two, social media accounts like YouTube and Twitter continue to find ways to flag and sensor terrorist activities with the help of the online community.

The internet is a great source of news and is used for viewers to form their own beliefs about certain topics. Unfortunately, more and more terror organizations are using these technologies to their advantage. The new speed of news and media coverage is changing the way we see the world, and it’s important to know why or how a massage is being spread.

INFOtainment News
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