Introduction. Special Conference. The Exploitation Of Media By Terrorist Groups

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1 Forum: Issue: Student Officer: Position: Special Conference The Exploitation Of Media By Terrorist Groups Deniz Gokce Co-Chair Introduction Terrorist groups have been using social media to reach a wider audience, promote their ideologies and even recruit members, for decades now. The web network allows activists that threaten the security and peace of civilians to reach far beyond their own countries. They spread their message through various social media tools including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube; websites with millions of users. Using the Internet has proven to be not only affordable but also convenient and efficient when it comes to reaching the public. As a result, terrorist groups continued to fight for their cause and further their goals through social media. Terrorism has long been a threat to international society. However, now that people have the technology to communicate with people all over the globe so easily, the world is more vulnerable to the threats of terrorist groups more than ever. The measures that have been taken up to this point haven t caused significant improvements since the effect of these measures were transitory and implementing them made almost no difference in the long run. To find a truly efficient solution, one must first understand the severity of the problem and what s at stake. Even though it might not be a physical battle that first-handedly causes the deaths of innocents, exploitation of media by terrorist groups is an issue that has to be tackled in order to prevent further losses and bring people closer to peace with as little damage as possible.

2 Definition of Key Terms Social Media: Websites and other online means of communication that are used by large groups of people to share information and to develop social and professional contacts. (dictionary.reference.com) Although they are meant to be innocent and useful tools to let people communicate more efficiently, the websites with millions of users such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are exploited by terrorist groups with the purpose of spreading their message as well as finding possible members to recruit. Dark Web: The term is used to identify websites that benefit from special anonymity software such as Tor and I2P in order to hide the IP addresses of the servers that run them. These websites are open to public and anyone can see its contents, however the softwares these groups use make it almost impossible to find where it s hosted, or by whom. WikiLeaks is one of the most commonly known website that used Tor and received leaks from anonymous sources. The idea has later been adopted to create a tool called SecureDrop, which allowed news organizations to accept submissions with unknown sources. General Overview Media, although meant to be beneficial tools of communication, have long been exploited by terrorist organizations to spread their message, raise funds and expand in number by recruiting new members. Currently, ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) is the most commonly known rebel group for its use of social media including YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. However, the practice isn t new. Media allow terrorist groups to reach thousands of people all around the globe through affordable, convenient and efficient means. However, terrorist groups use media to promote their ideologies through various means including posting videos that encourage users to follow their lead. During past months, thousands of civilians from several countries left where they lived to join ISIS. The websites communities use to receive information and communicate with people on a daily basis put the

3 international community in a vulnerable position against acts of terrorism. As the world we live in evolves, threats evolve with it, and so do the measures we must be taking against them. What makes this problem exceptionally serious and hard to solve is that it s quite difficult to track them down. Known as the Dark Web, the websites that use special software that hide the IP addresses of servers, let terrorist organizations reach a wide audience without the danger of getting caught. These websites are open to public, as a result, rebel groups also use them to attract supporters as well as upload snapshots of extremist activities. Before the Internet, it was relatively difficult for them to use media as a means of spreading their message since the traditional media such as television, media and print items all had editorial selection criteria they couldn t meet. It s almost impossible to monitor the web in the same way since it covers such a vast and mercurial platform. Dark Web and the softwares that allow anonymous sources make it even easier for terrorist groups to exploit media without getting caught by governments or organizations. The acts of rebel groups aren t only limited to recruiting members and spreading their ideologies, they also involve threatening uninterested civilians in order to arouse fear and sense of helplessness among the public, a tactic known as psychological warfare. The use of media by these groups introduces and allows them to benefit from unconventional ways of inflicting damage and terrorize civilians without physically reaching them. Media reach beyond the borders of countries and so do acts of terrorism. Therefore, the exploitation of media by terrorist groups is a problem that should be brought into the attention of the international community. The delegates of Special Conference are expected to keep in mind the difficulties that could arise when tackling with such a far-reaching and diverse conflict as they come up with clauses and reflect on the theme of RCIMUN 2015 which is directly related to what they ll be discussing in the Special Conference: The evolving threat of terrorism: reassessing the nature of its causes and current global responses

4 Major Parties Involved and Their Views ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) ISIL has been one of the terrorist groups that gained recognition through its use of various means of social media. Its posting activity reached a rate of 40,000 tweets in Twitter per day when they marched into Mosul, a northern Iraqi city. A research done by Recorded Future proved that ISIL has reached a broad audience as there were 700,000 accounts discussing the acts of this jihadist rebel group. The amateur videos and images posted by its soldiers continue to be shared by ordinary users and even mainstream news organizations. Twitter Twitter is a social media tool with approximately 288 millions of users. As popular as it may be, Twitter has been the subject of harsh comments and discussions with controversial ideas as it has been used by several terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Al Shabaab and Taliban. Twitter takes requests from governments to take down inappropriate content; however there have been instances when the company decided not to comply with these requests, as it s a private establishment with no direct policy concerning terrorism. Twitter suspended the accounts of terrorist groups before, but that could hardly bring an end to the exploitation of the website. New accounts emerged and replaced the ones that were removed. There are various views on the issue. Some say that the media, including Twitter, should be as transparent as possible and taking down content is unethical; while others believe Twitter should be more meticulous and block all the accounts that are related to rebel groups. There are also government officials who would prefer the accounts remain open since terrorist activists posts on social media help governments track them down online and gather intelligence. Al-Qaida Although, like ISIL, Al-Qaida exploits media to spread a message and acts of terrorism, its way of doing that is quite different from that of ISIL. Al-Qaida relies on older platforms such as forums in order to stir lone-wolves to carry out missions of their own in their countries, preferably in Western ones. Inspire, which is al-qaida s online English magazine, not only motivates civilians to perform acts of terrorism with

5 radical interpretations of Islam but also gives out bomb-making instructions the encouraged readers use as they carry out their plans. Timeline of Events 15 July 2010 The first issue of Inspire came out. May 2011 The Taliban became active on Twitter. 9 September 2011 President of the United States, Barack Obama signs Executive Order 13584, a document that provides policy background and assigns responsibilities to the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. October 2012 Twitter blocked a Neo-Nazi account upon the request of the German government. December 2012 Facebook suspends Umar Media, the account of the Pakistani Taliban s media branch. January 2013 Twitter suspend the account of Somalibased terrorist group Al-Shabaab 8 October 2014 Tech firms including Twitter, Facebook and Google, and European government officials met in Luxembourg in order to discuss how to combat online extremism.

6 UN Involvement CTITF (Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force) CTITF is a UN organ that was established by the Secretary-General in 2005 One of the working groups which operates under CTITF called the Working Group on Countering the Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes was created specifically to help Member States combat online extremism. The organization tackles various issues and considers all kinds of terrorist purposes including recruitment, training, operational planning and fundraising. The group organized stakeholders meetings in the past years in order to bring the Working Group together with policy-makers, cyber-security professionals, industry representatives, terrorism experts, law enforcement and civil society representatives. After these meetings, exhaustive reports about the legal and technical challenges that stand in the way and different approaches to tackle them have been released. The Working Group cooperates with experts and various organizations as it addresses the problem. However, despite the documents released and conferences organized by the group, there hasn t been a significant improvement. Considering that even the CTITF itself is relatively new, the delegates should remember that the Working Group might not have reached its full potential yet, however, as always, there is room for improvement and the delegates could modify the organization. Relevant UN Documents CTITF Working Group Report, February 2009 Riyadh Conference on Use of the Internet to Counter the Appeal of Extremist Violence (Conference Summary and Follow-up/Recommendations), January 2011 CTITF Interagency WG Compendium- Legal & Technical Aspects, May 2011 UNODC The Use of the Internet For Terrorist Purposes, September 2012

7 Evaluation of Previous Attempts to Resolve the Issue Riyadh Conference on Use of the Internet to Counter the Appeal of Extremist Violence January 2011 Co-hosted by the CTITF, Naif Arab Security and Center on Global Counter-Terrorism Cooperation, this conference was organized by the Working Group on Countering the Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes in order to address the unfavorable impact of online extremist activities and the possible means of bringing an end to the conflict. Senior representatives from Member States, private sector analysts attended the conference where they discussed action points/ possible follow-on projects and recommendations concerning the measures the international community could take to tackle the issue. Although the Conference agreed that governments needed the cooperation of civil society, the private sector, academia and the media, there were no clear, constructive suggestions about how to create such a broad and diverse network. The recommendations were rather vague and not detailed enough to construct and actual agenda or plan. Possible Solutions Seeing that there is already a Working Group that specifically concerns itself with the exploitation of media by terrorist groups, the delegates might want to improve on this branch of CTITF. Since it s a rather new organization, it could be a good idea to raise funds and increase resources. The Riyadh Conference seems to have reached various experts and government officials and gathering such a group is important for the solution of this problem. However, it was organized in 2011 and a lot have taken place since then, such as ISIL s gaining a significant amount of publicity in the past couple of months. The delegates could consider setting up a new conference that has a similar structure in order to address the recent conflicts. The technologies that Dark Web offers make it difficult to locate the servers and blocking accounts causes the creation of new ones. In that sense, using the information posted online for other purposes might be a good idea. There could be online locks for users who prefer not to see content posted by these groups or official accounts that act as deterrent forces that counter the efforts of terrorist organizations. Including a clause about how to prevent newspapers from posting certain content on their online pages, could be a good idea since videos and images in such websites

8 also serve the purposes of terrorist groups. However, the delegates are encouraged to be careful not to cross the border of censorship when they write clauses about blocking extremist content. Bibliography "Al-Qaida and ISIS Use Twitter Differently. Here's How and Why."Www.nationaljournal.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb <http://www.nationaljournal.com/tech/al-qaida-and-isis-use-twitter-differently-here-show-and-why >. "Countering the Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes Legal and Technical Aspects." (2011): n. pag. Web. 19 Feb <http://www.un.org/en/terrorism/ctitf/pdfs/wg_compendium- Legal_and_Technical_Aspects_2011.pdf>. "Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, CTITF." UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 18 Feb <http://www.un.org/en/terrorism/ctitf/wg_counteringinternet.shtml>. "CTITF Working Group Use of the Internet to Counter the Appeal of Extremist Violence." (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 19 Feb <http://www.un.org/en/terrorism/ctitf/pdfs/ctitf_riyadh_conference_summary_recomm endations.pdf>. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 16 Feb <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/social+media>. "Hacker Lexicon: What Is the Dark Web? WIRED." Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, "Issues of Inspire Magazine." Anti-Defamation League. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb n.d. Web. 13 Feb <http://www.wired.com/2014/11/hacker-lexicon-whats-darkweb/>. <http://www.adl.org/combating-hate/m/inspire-magazine/c/issues-of-inspiremagazine.html>.

9 Kjuka, Deana. "When Terrorists Take to Social Media." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 20 Feb Web. 18 Feb <http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/02/when-terrorists-take-tosocial-media/273321/>. Reporters, Telegraph. "How Terrorists Are Using Social Media." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, n.d. Web. 16 Feb <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/islamic-state/ /how-terroristsare-using-social-media.html>. United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force. (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 19 Feb <http://www.unodc.org/documents/frontpage/use_of_internet_for_terrorist_purpose s.pdf>. "Why Terrorists Love Twitter." Time. Time, n.d. Web. 18 Feb <http://time.com/ /isis-isil-twitter/>. "Working Group Report." (2009): n. pag. Web. 19 Feb <http://www.un.org/en/terrorism/ctitf/pdfs/ctitf_internet_wg_2009_report.pdf>.

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