Internet as an unmediated channel for contemporary terrorism

By Areeja Syed and Ahmed But Jamali

With the rapid advancement of science and technology, the world has not only become a global village but also a volatile pot for many threatening things happening around the world. Such things have played a very disastrous role in instability among countries by especially the mishandled disasters in the field of not only science of technology but human life as well. By wrongly using the technological aspect of life , these types of incidents magnificently challenge the peace of the globe by terrorizing the peoples, places and overall segments of society. Out of all those channels and means to create a fear and frightening event, Internet itself has been manipulated to play her positive role from being the engine of knowledge, wisdom and peacefulness abruptly turned into the source of lethal and hateful messages propagator all over the globe. Positively, internet is the fastest source for the propagation of the information, knowledge through various means and social media resources.

Negatively, Internet Terrorism or Cyber Terrorism has totally changed the picture of internet, using Internet as the vibrant means to destroy something valuable or propagate hateful messages or to disable any service for a limited or indefinite period of time.[1] The different definitions of the Cyber-terrorism includes Barry Collin, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Security and Intelligence in California, defines cyber-terrorism as the convergence of cybernetics and terrorism. Mark Pollitt, special agent for the FBI says that “Cyberterrorism is the premeditated, politically motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs, and data which result in violence against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents.”[2] Resultantly, this type of violence took place in the form of online information on various worldwide websites rapidly. The Internet enables global terrorism in several ways. It is an organizational tool that provides a basis for planning, command, control the function of terrorist activities. It is a tool for intelligence gathering, providing access to a broad range of material on potential targets, from simple maps to photographs.

One of its most valuable usage is propaganda, to relay the messages, to propagate false information, images and ideas that motivate the terrorist minds.[3] The primary use of the internet by terrorist involves information: obtaining, disseminating, and using it to advance their goals. In order to conduct activities, websites are used for propaganda, recruitment, and fundraising and many more by terrorist organizations. The main tactic of terrorist on the websites is to portray the imagery and symbols of victimization and empowerment to spread their message. These displays are effective in arousing the emotions of supporters and potential likeminded persons from different part of the globe. Today, there are more than 7000 terrorist groups using internet for planning various terrorist activities by using blogs, websites, chatrooms, user groups and many more. The target is to propagate the message to unlimited audience. For those groups internet is very easy accessible source to send the messages. The recent example would be Al Qaeda in March 2008 posted training to attract upcoming terrorist to gain more recruitments which attracted some particular training sessions conducted by senior member namely Shamil-al Baghdadi. The goal was to train jihadist and to enrich their activities to create more potential danger for the world. The training was mainly focused on how to carry out assassinations by using rifles, suicide attacks, trapping cellular phones.[4]

On the other hand, the dramatic emergence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ISIS has shifted the focus from low scale to high scaled internet activities. ISIS has become one of the richest and most powerful violent organization particularly using internet as a dynamic source to terrorize masses by posting videos of beheading of masses, posters and a clearly designed agendas. ISIS is a Sunni-dominated terrorist organization, its origin can be traced back to 2003-2004 when USA invaded Iraq and the insurgency that followed provided a fertile ground for the group to flourish. Originally known as AQI (Al-Qaida in Iraq), the group was founded by Abu-Musab-Al-Zarqawi in 2003 and was considered a franchise of Al-Qaeda, though the leaders had their differences.[5] As mentioned about that Sekulow (2014) discussed about the uniqueness of the group which has become the biggest threat for the world. ISIS unique strategies such as the use of social media has served as a basic tool and platform to expand its messages. There messages inspired the sympathizers by joining them rapidly which has made this organization an increasingly difficult to counter.

Recently, Obama was quoted as saying “IS is just a bunch of killers with good social media”. But as written by Ayman-ul Zawahiri in letter to Al-Zarqawi “We are in a battle, and more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media,” IS aimed for media warfare and has succeeded in building its own narrative of terrorism in the form of collecting people from every nook and corner of the globe. As its messages reaches the world through social channels, which creates a big panic for great powers to stop the flow of information. ISIS use new media technology to capture the worldwide attention on their brutal violence. They make video by using of high quality camera and clear microphone by reading the messages. ISIS uses internet as a strong instrument to spread their violence, which are creating challenges for the rest of the world. Security experts say terrorist groups use the Internet for five general purposes. Research and communication: training, fundraising, media operations, radicalization and recruitments. These five goals possess a significant importance for terrorist. In fact, the misusage of internet as threat is heinous to global peace and security. Countries under the framework of United Nations come up with the idea of countering this threat by making various strategies in their counter-terrorism policies. The United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) was established by Secretary General in 2005 to give a hard blow to this viral menace.[6] CTITF provided a plan of action for international community to coordinate in various aspects of countering measures.

It comes up with legal and technical aspects of counter-terrorism strategies by monitoring the illegal contents on internet, terrorist financing, internet related attacks, cyber-crime and unlawful access to computers especially hacking. In conclusion, the misusage of internet has played a pivotal role in the life of a common man ranging from educated to illiterate. 21st century has witnessed this wave of changes by providing an easy access of information available on the internet in the hands of terrorist organizations. Such type of information has totally changed the dynamics and behaviors of the peace. Consequently, internet has served as modus-operand for terrorist groups to gain maximum advantages by using internet as a rapid tool for their political, ideological and various hidden motives.


  1. Arun Kumar (The window club) October 20, 2012
  2. Sergey Karasavin “What is Cyber Terrorism?
  3. James A. Lewis , The internet and terrorism, April 2005
  4. Abdul Hameed Bakier, “An Online Terrorist Training Manual “The Jamestown Foundation, April 1, 2008.
  5. Mccants ‘‘The ISIS apocalypse’’ 2014


  • Mccants, W “The ISIS apocalypse” (Washington, D.C., Picador 2016)
  • Sekulow, J Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore (London, Howard Books 2014)
  • Gilbert Ramsay; Gabriel Weimann “Terror on the Internet. The New Arena, the New Challenges” International Public Opinion 2007
  • Jialun Qin et al., “Analyzing Terror Campaigns on the Internet: Technical Sophistication,
  • “Terrorists Launch Google Guide” The Jawa Report, November 29, 2006
  • Eben Kaplan “Terrorist and the internet” Council on foreign Relations, January 8,2009
  • Lewis James “The Internet and Terrorism” Centre of Strategic and International Studies
  • “Counter terrorism implementation task force” CTITF Publication May 2011
  • “Terrorist’s Web, how internet is transforming Terrorism”, Dudley Knox Library Calhoun California,2010
  • Abdul Hameed Bakier, “An Online Terrorist Training Manual” The Jamestown Foundation, April 1, 2008.

Areeja Syed hold a Masters in Defense and Diplomatic Studies from Fatima Jinnah Women University, Pakistan. Her area of expertise is Defense and Security issues of Pakistan. Ahmed Bux Jamali is student of Masters in International Relations at Jilin University China under Chinese Scholarship Council. He also works as Research Fellow at The Diplomatic Insight-Magazine based on contemporary International Affairs in Pakistan.

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Foreign Policy News is a self-financed initiative providing a venue and forum for political analysts and experts to disseminate analysis of major political and business-related events in the world, shed light on particulars of U.S. foreign policy from the perspective of foreign media and present alternative overview on current events affecting the international relations.

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