On the Internet, it is easy to find gruesome videos of beheadings or other kind of cruel treatment. The worldwide web is full of horrible images. The purpose of such imagery is to provoke shock in the viewer, to provoke fear. The “success” of a terrorist attack is not measured by the number of death, but by the level of fear it creates and by how it propels the group into the media spotlight. In this sense, a video of a Jordanian pilot burning, which created a scandal on Internet, is a “success”.
Another type of internet terrorism, which is quite frequent, is the hacking of Western organizations: for instance, TV5 Monde (a French channel), The New York Times, and even the Twitter account of the U.S. Central Command.
The most sophisticated cyber terrorist is ISIS. While Al-Qaeda used the Internet to pass its message, there is a big difference between a 45 minute video with Osama Bin Laden talking non-stop and a short professional video showcasing how jihadists are “cool” or a gruesomely directed short video of a beheading. ISIS have become cyber-terrorist pros. For instance, they tweeted 40 000 times on the day they took the city of Mosul. Despite all its efforts, Twitter is unable to keep up with them: every time they close an account, a new one is created. ISIS is estimated to have around 27 000 accounts still working and publishing propaganda. And these are actively followed: they have 1000 followers in average, which is higher than the ordinary rate for “normal” Twitter accounts. These techniques allow them to have more visibility and to appear more powerful: they are everywhere we look, everywhere we click.
So why don’t social media organizations shut these accounts down? Well, they try. Considering the amount of information each site receives every hour of the day, it is quite hard to know what is what. Imagine: Google has 300 hours of video uploaded every minutes… it is impossible to control. Even when videos are reported, it takes up to one hour to take it down: plenty of time for it to be saved or shared somewhere else. Couldn’t they just use an automated detection system like YouTube does to detect copyright songs? Well, Google explains that this wouldn’t be possible in the case of hostage’s videos: it would also block all news sites using a part of it and block all counter-propaganda attempts. The cyber-war with terrorists is doomed to be a long and complex. In the realm of anonymous speech and hidden websites, it is hard to fight a skilled enemy.