Social Media and Terrorism: Doesn’t it go both ways?

By | September 20, 2015

Sure – social media is making it easier than ever before for terrorists to recruit new henchmen. But what about enlisting public help in locating terrorists? Why shouldn't social media help that as well?

Perhaps intelligence agencies need to change the public opinion on them from 'evil big brother' to 'your helping hand'. I mean, more people have good intentions than evil intentions. So why not take advantage of that to enlist the general public help the law enforcement system do what it was originally concepted to do, namely making sure that we have a safe, harmonious and enjoyable place to live in?

Social media and the digital world works both ways – play nice, and you will gain support. Play evil, and you will lose support. Play smart, and you will be able to achieve goals beyond mere popularity contests. And when your real enemy has learned how to play smart, it's time that you do, too. I'd expect that a digital world where privacy is respected, but sufficient trust is there between law enforcement and citizens in order to allow effective terrorist tracking on targeted individuals to take place, is something very possible by purposing, and respecting purposed data – in a manner that closely parallels how we track down terrorists in real life.

Originally shared by +David Amerland

Give Us ALL Your Data Already

In The Social Media Mind ( I defined social media as “The empowerment of the individual over the State”. I said social media is changing everything because it is a catalyst that forces upon us the need to rethink the way we connect, the reasons we do so, what we want to achieve and how.

It’s no secret that National Intelligence Agencies want to spy on us all on the understanding that then they will be able to ‘protect’ us better from ‘undesirables’. The terrorist threat is a real one. Globally we have more disgruntled, capable, empowered, trained people who have an axe to grind and an ideology to drive, than ever before. These people have the same access to technology as we each do and however misguided they may seem from our point of view, they nevertheless believe as fervently in their beliefs as we in ours.

To have the serving head of an intelligence service to talk to the public in a public radio broadcast as the MI5’s (British Secret Intelligence Agency) Andrew Parker, has done is unprecedented. But let’s note that his coming out of the ‘shadows’ to enlist the public’s understanding and provide some transparency is out of necessity (because we no longer are willing to be led by the nose “for our own good”) rather than choice.

In his radio interview he covered five things which are worth digging into deeper:

1. Current terror threat to the UK is unprecedented in Andrew Parker's 32-year career – true as that may be there is also a direct connection between the action of western Governments (the UK’s included) in destabilizing areas like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and resulting in the largest humanitarian crisis of our century so far with refugees, flooding into Europe. The days when we could allow governments to act blindly on our ‘behalf’ without us having a say in it, or them being accountable have come to an end. While it may be too late to reverse the past we can still make sure that the way we move forward into the future begins to put in place lasting solutions as opposed to stop-gap measures. And, yeah, we now all have to step up and make sure that we create a world that is more equitable, fairer, more transparent and less likely to lead to the kind of extremism we are seeing right now.

2. Social Media is changing everything – Parker suggests that social media is making it easy to find and indoctrinate disenfranchised youths willing to join the ranks of extremists. As the Baader Meinhof ( shows this has always been the case. The best defense against that is a better world, better education, better communication and better relationships – actually more of the stuff that makes us human and less of the things that make us pawns. Numbers in someone else’s game.

3. Encryption is making the job of security agencies harder – yeah, I really feel for Parker here. Snark, aside, I totally get the frustration that must come with hitting operational brick walls because we, as citizens regard our privacy … well, private. Traditionally, intelligence work meant exactly that: intelligent analysis, the ability to win hearts and minds (and create informants and defectors), the ability to have in place the kind of real-life network and connections that make it hard for anyone doing something bad to actually do it without tripping off alarms.

4. MI5 wants to grab ALL your data at will – Well, Parker really tells us nothing new there. Every intelligence agency worldwide is singing from the same hymn sheet citing encryption as the evil to be defeated, giving us the “you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide” spiel which, as an argument, historically (given the level of abuse we’ve seen by intelligence agencies has seen comic books banned ( – they must have been truly evil) holds about the same amount of water as a sieve. Parker trots out the classic (and I suspect required by his job) line of “our efforts are focused on people who mean us harm” kinda forgetting that McCarthy thought there was a commie under every bed in the US ( and ruined countless people’s lives on that whim.

5. No transparency – this interview not withstanding Parker actually does say that obviously there can be no transparency in the work security agencies do but… as we saw with the CIA use of torture ( that approach creates opportunities for abuse without delivering effective results, which however don’t matter as there is no transparency and no accountability and it kinda doesn’t matter as long as we think we do what’s right, even if it ain’t. The really difficult thing to do here is develop practices and processes that work and are seen to work and there is oversight so that no abuse happens while at the same time operational effectiveness is maintained. Does that sound easy to do? No. It requires trust – both ways, from us to intelligence agencies and then from them to us. Trust that currently does not exist and has to be earned the hard way.

To his credit Andrew Parker is on the record, on public radio (which is why this post is possible at all). So, instead of making him the whipping boy for all our frustrations let’s think that this, at least, is a conversation starter that is pointing in the right direction. Catch the interview here:


32 thoughts on “Social Media and Terrorism: Doesn’t it go both ways?

  1. M.L. McCarren

    +Sophie Wrobel wouldn't you agree there has been a fundamental shift in perception of the role of government … likely starting as far back as the cold war with McCarthyism and NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV qoutes floating around like:

    "Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you."

    "Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.

    "I once said, "We will bury you," and I got into trouble with it. Of course we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you."

    "When you are skinning your customers you should leave some skin on to grow again so that you can skin them again."

    "The more bombers, the less room for doves of peace."

    "If one cannot catch the bird of paradise, better take a wet hen."

    "We will take America without firing a shot…….We will BURY YOU! We can’t expect the American People to jump from Capitalism to Communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving them small doses of Socialism, until they awaken one day to find that they have Communism. We do not have to invade the United States, we will destroy you from within.”

    "You Americans are so gullible! We don’t have to invade you! We will destroy you from within without firing a shot! We will bury you by the billions! We spoon feed you socialism until your Communists and don’t even know it! We assist your elected leaders in giving you small doses of Socialism until you suddenly awake to find you have Communism. the day will come when your grandchildren will live under communism"

    The only confirmed qoute was the first one but the fact that the mood changed and an era of secrecy and covert operations against Americans by our government began in earnest.
    … when we no longer had a government OF, FOR, and BY THE PEOPLE.

  2. Sophie Wrobel

    +Valdis Klētnieks and +S Spitz , might I suggest to create another post, or better yet essay, to express your opinions on who the real threat is more poignantly to each other – and also enlighten the rest of us with your knowledge as opposed to bickering over who should go first? I suspect that both of you have a lot more than just three or four lines waiting to be expressed!

    Or, if you feel that you don't have anything new to add to what has already been said, let's just leave it at that – you've both already expressed your concerns about the validity of the cited references quite clearly, and I'm quite sure that the readers on this thread are intelligent enough to sift through fact and fiction for themselves in light of those concerns.

  3. S Spitz (‫تمتص كرات بلدي اليهودية‬‎)

    +Valdis Klētnieks you posted that the Kent state shooting back in the 70's was intended by the government.
    When I asked you to prove it, and I asked you 3 times you just skipped out, but you did respond to others in that time period before running.
    Now prove your bull shit since I asked you first.
    As for the times, they have never printed any pro gun stores, have printed many stories with an anti-gun slant or used info from anti-gun sources.
    The use of the word alleged in front of the many people in there story does not confer guilt, but that is how they have slanted there biased story.

  4. Sophie Wrobel

    There's an old saying – trust is easily broken and hard to regain. Note that it is not impossible, just hard. If everyone gave up on utopia there will never be one, but it if we strive towards one there might.

  5. M.L. McCarren

    In 1786 Thomas Jefferson, then US ambassador to France, and John Adams, then US Ambassador to Britain, met in London with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the Dey’s ambassador to Britain, in an attempt to negotiate a peace treaty based on Congress’ vote of funding. To the US Congress these two future Presidents later reported the reasons for the Muslims’ hostility towards America, a nation with which they had no previous contacts.

    “…that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman (Muslim) who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

    Sound familiar?

  6. M.L. McCarren

    +S Spitz i believe i have some of the nuts you are talking with blocked …
    i.e. "Vladis"
    Lets not dismiss the fact that the MSM gas admitted they are basis. . .

    a number of journalists have admitted that the majority of their brethren approach the news from a liberal angle. Examples:

    “You know, it’s fairly well discussed inside CBS News that there are some managers recently who have been so ideologically entrenched that there is a feeling and discussion that some of them, certainly not all of them, have a difficult time viewing a story that may reflect negatively upon government or the administration as a story of value….They never mind the stories that seem to, for example — and I did plenty of them — go against the grain of the Republican Party….I didn’t sense any resistance in doing stories that were perceived to be negative to the Bush administration — by anybody, ever. I have done stories that I perceived were not received well because people thought they would reflect poorly upon this [the Obama] administration.”
    — Former CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson on CNN’s Reliable Sources, April 20, 2014.

    “There is no doubt that the press failed to scrutinize this program [ObamaCare] at the time of passage and during the context of the President’s re-election. I think any reporter who would argue otherwise would be putting their head in the sand.”
    — Time/MSNBC political analyst Mark Halperin on FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor, November 21, 2013.

    Buzzfeed’s Michael Hastings: “The presence of Obama, even on the press corps, even on the people who follow him every day, when they’re near him, they lose their mind sometimes. You know, they start behaving in ways that are juvenile and amateurish. And they swoon.”
    Host Martin Bashir: “And, of course, you don’t.”
    Hastings: “Oh, I do. No, I do, I do, I do. Oh, I totally, oh, man….”
    — Discussing Hastings’ book about the 2012 presidential campaign on MSNBC’s Martin Bashir, January 24, 2013.

    “So many [reporters and editors] share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of the Times. As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in the Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.”
    — Outgoing public editor Arthur Brisbane in his final New York Times column, August 26, 2012.

    “Ultimately journalism has changed….Partisanship is very much a part of journalism now.”
    — CBS Corporation Chairman and CEO Les Moonves as quoted in a June 7, 2012 Los Angeles Times story by Robin Abcarian and Kathleen Hennessey.

    “I think that the media is as divided on this issue [of gay marriage] as the Obama family — which is to say not at all. And so he’s never going to get negative coverage for this….When you have almost the entire media establishment on your side on an issue in a presidential campaign, it’s very hard to lose politically.”
    — Mark Halperin on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, May 10, 2012.

    “Are reporters biased? There is no doubt that — I’ve worked at the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and worked here at Politico. If I had to guess, if you put all of the reporters that I’ve ever worked with on truth serum, most of them vote Democratic.”
    — Politico's Jim VandeHei during C-SPAN's coverage of the GOP primaries, March 13, 2012.

    “No person with eyes in his head in 2008 could have failed to see the way that soft coverage helped to propel Obama first to the Democratic nomination and then into the White House.”
    — New York Magazine political reporter John Heilemann, January 27, 2012.

    “When Newsweek was owned by the Washington Post, it was predictably left-wing, but it was accurate. Under Tina Brown, it is an inaccurate and unfair left-wing propaganda machine.”
    — USA Today founder Al Neuharth in his August 19, 2011 column.

    “If the 2012 election were held in the newsrooms of America and pitted Sarah Palin against Barack Obama, I doubt Palin would get 10 percent of the vote. However tempting the newsworthy havoc of a Palin presidency, I’m pretty sure most journalists would recoil in horror from the idea.”
    — New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller in a column for the paper’s June 19, 2011 Sunday Magazine.

    “You guys talk about her [Sarah Palin] a lot, we write about her a lot, yet if you talk to any single reporter at any media organization that we’re aware of, I don’t think that anyone thinks she can be President or should be President.”
    — Politico executive editor Jim VandeHei, a former Washington Post political reporter, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, June 14, 2011.

    "The mainstream press is liberal….Since the civil rights and women's movements, the culture wars and Watergate, the press corps at such institutions as the Washington Post, ABC-NBC-CBS News, the NYT, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, etc. is composed in large part of 'new' or 'creative' class members of the liberal elite — well-educated men and women who tend to favor abortion rights, women's rights, civil rights, and gay rights. In the main, they find such figures as Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Pat Robertson, or Jerry Falwell beneath contempt….If reporters were the only ones allowed to vote, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry would have won the White House by landslide margins."
    — Longtime Washington Post political reporter Thomas Edsall in an October 8, 2009 essay for the Columbia Journalism Review, 'Journalism Should Own Its Liberalism.'

    "I'll bet that most Post journalists voted for [Barack] Obama. I did. There are centrists at the Post as well. But the conservatives I know here feel so outnumbered that they don't even want to be quoted by name in a memo."
    — Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell in her November 16, 2008 column.

    MSNBC's Joe Scarborough: "The media has been really, really biased this campaign, I think….Is the media just in love with history here, Mark, do you think?"…
    Time's Mark Halperin: "I think mistakes have been made and people will regret it….If Obama wins and goes on to become a hugely successful President, I think, still, people will look back and say it just wasn't done the right way."
    — MSNBC's Morning Joe, October 28, 2008.


  7. M.L. McCarren

    +Chris Harpner When the DOCTRINE of ANY organization promotes violence and barbarism , then that organizations doctrine IS EVIL.

    To take it a step further … ANYONE who promotes and/or actively engages in carrying out said doctrine , KNOWING it is evil… then that same person is the doer of evil .
    The spirit of man , or his conscience if you will, is not evil by nature. It is when mankind continues in committing such acts that his conscience eventually is in effect "seared" …to wit he no longer differentiates between good and evil…
    Then the state of that person has become evil by nature.I
    That's how i see it.

  8. M.L. McCarren

    While I agree in principle with this post, and find merit in your notion, +Sophie Wrobel​​,
    on the potential help that public input can and has played in the location & apprehending of criminals. i.e. America's Most Wanted with John Walsh…
    But I am not sure as to what significant improvement over the current programs and tip lines already in place, the internt can play.

    Your statement of-
    "I would expect that a digital world where privacy is respected, but sufficient trust is there between law enforcement and citizens… "

    With all due respect "hasn't that ship sailed" with regards to the respect of privacy?

    "…and respecting purposed data…"

    … again…already "left the port"!

    Let's consider this: "the fox is already in the hen house!" The threat of terrorists , while in and of itself is indeed a threat, but has also been used as a ruse by those who would have no problem circumventing the constitution.
    Sure, there will be those who at this point will dismiss me as a conspiracy nut… but then, would we as yet know what we know if not for the revelations of Edward Snowden?

    This is the scenario in which i see the internet playing a vital role … a last vestige of an uncensored means of communication .
    But dont we see steps being taken by some in government to clamp down on the net? It is being done in China.

    In this day we must be careful in whom we place our trust… the wolf may be at the door … not wearing a towel on his head… but an embroidered U.S. flag on their uniform.

    Today, who is our enemy?

    Those who would have us sacrifice freedom and liberty for security… but in the end we have neither.

    Just saying…

  9. Sophie Wrobel

    Calm down a bit! Granted, sometimes Google doesn't give a non-biased source as the first hit. That however does not mean that the argument is invalid.

    I think we'd all agree that extremists, regardless of extreme left or extreme right affiliations, need to be dealt with, and that they outnumber the Islamic terrorists directly threatening North America at the moment. Media has been disproportionately representing this as of late, which helps nobody.

  10. Valdis Klētnieks

    +S Spitz First, explain what I may or may not have said regarding Kent State has to do with the current discussion. Let's face it – you're trying at all costs to avoid having to face the fact that I cited numbers and sources, and you're empty handed.

  11. Valdis Klētnieks

    +S Spitz new York times is a biased anti-gun paper.

    Do you wish to dispute the facts listed in the quote, by providing reputable sources that have a different count of incidents and casualties? Or are you trying to shoot the messenger by claiming it's biased, but unable to refute the facts?

  12. Valdis Klētnieks

    +Chris Harpner Well, let's see..

    Even just 4 months after the Sept 11 attack, the FBI recognized that homegrown right wing activity was a threat:

    At the same time, the United States also faces significant challenges from domestic terrorists. In fact, between 1980 and 2000, the FBI recorded 335 incidents or suspected incidents of terrorism in this country. Of these, 247 were attributed to domestic terrorists, while 88 were determined to be international in nature.

    And the numbers haven't changed much in the 15 years since:

    Despite public anxiety about extremists inspired by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the number of violent plots by such individuals has remained very low. Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.
    In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012.

    Now it's your turn….

  13. Valdis Klētnieks

    +Chris Harpner Most mass shootings are by left leaning people… Not all, of course, but most.

    Evidence, please. In particular, focus on the fact that most mass shootings are not political in nature. Virginia Tech? Aurora? Sandy Hook? Politics not involved.

  14. Chris Harpner (CSharpner)

    I'm afraid you're mistaken. Those cops that have been murdered were murdered by black lives matter leftist extremists. Louis Farrakhan , who recently called for the murder of whites by blacks is a left wing extremist. Most mass shootings are by left leaning people… Not all, of course, but most.

    But yes, every basket of people has some crazies in it, left, right, everything else.

    But all of that is irrelevant to the point I made. While we RIGHTLY want to protect innocent Muslims (and I like to believe most American Muslims are innocent), we're letting or guard down because of race or religion. We shouldn't do that for right wing white Christians and we shouldn't do it for Arab Muslims. We shouldn't let our guard down for any race or religion. There should be no special treatment. Treat all races and religions equally.

  15. Valdis Klētnieks

    +Chris Harpner You want to discuss real threats to the US?

    Consider that there's very few actual Islamic-based threats to the US because they don't need to attack us – our own fears are destroying us far better than any actual attacks would do.

    Meanwhile, nobody wants to talk about the fact that we have a lot more white Christian far-right extremists committing terrorist attacks than we do Islamic ones.

  16. Chris Harpner (CSharpner)

    There's been so much sympathy for wanting to protect innocent Muslims from stereotypes (rightly so) that our western society is too afraid to speak out about the real Islamic extremists for fear of being labeled a racist or an Islamaphobe. So, we sit by and do nothing.

  17. Javier Chiappa

    " 'evil big brother' to 'your helping hand'".

    What do you think "Big Brother" means?

    That's how collectivism works my friend, just denounce your neighbours to the state!, be a good obedient sheep.
    Comrade Stalin salutes you.


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