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June 21, 2012 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 849

HASHTAG #Jihad: Charting Jihadi-Terrorist Organizations' Use Of Twitter

June 21, 2012 | By Steven Stalinsky
Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 849

"For those who do not know how to commit jihad, they should understand that there are several ways of committing jihad… This is not the Stone Age… This is the Internet era, there is Facebook, Twitter and others."

- Umar Patek, at his Bali terrorism trial, June 7, 2012[1]

Introduction

Twitter began as an online social networking and micro blogging service in English in 2006. Since that time it has gained popularity in other languages as well, including Arabic across the Arab and Muslim world. According to recent research on Twitter users, Arabic is now the fastest-growing language on the site; the number of Arabic-language tweets is 22 times greater than it was a year ago.[2] One segment of this group is members of jihadi and terrorist organizations.

As part of their online media strategy, jihadi organizations have in recent years begun using Western websites and technologies – uploading videos to YouTube[3] and to the Internet Archive,[4] creating official Facebook pages,[5] and, lately, "tweeting" news flashes from the jihadi fronts.

Headquartered in San Francisco, California and with servers in San Antonio, Texas, Boston, Massachusetts, and New York, and an ever expanding presence in Washington D.C., Twitter is increasingly being used by terrorist organizations and their media outlets, and their online followers are growing in number. These organizations include many officially recognized by the West and U.S. government as terrorist entities, such as the Taliban (alemarahweb and ABalkhi),[6] the Somali Al-Qaeda-affiliated group Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen (HSMPress),[7] Hamas (hamasinfo) and its military wing Al-Qassam Brigades (AlqassamBrigade),[8] Hizbullah and its Al-Manar TV (almanarnews),[9] and other groups.

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