Facebook is actively used by the complex network of Islamic State recruiters for screening profiles of teenagers they consider to be a fit to join their teams, according to new research from an online security expert Dr. Robyn Torok, conducted. Recently she submitted her findings from her report entitled “How are Western youth conditioned to commit terrorist acts?” at a conference in Perth, Australia.
Why only teens?
Since 2010, Dr. Torok has been monitoring such recruiters on Facebook and other major social networks. These recruiters seek to radicalize and draft teenagers. In her findings, she has detailed the modus operandi of how ISIS tries to benefit from teenagers’ sense of alienation. Dr. Torok believes that terrorist organizations target teens because they are vulnerable.
“They work on that transition period where they are working out who they are and where they fit in,” she notes.
How terror groups spot a subject on Facebook
These agents of terror scan inflammatory posts on Facebook for identification of potential targets. They keep a strict watch on the online behavior of their target and keep a note of their reaction to sensitive issues. After they succeed in spotting a subject, they try to interact with the subject.
After some time, the relationship turns personal, and the target starts sharing their emotional troubles with the recruiter, who displays empathy towards the subject. They also make sure that the target interacts with other agents so that they gradually detach from their community and become a part of the terrorist community.
With the strengthening of the bond, discussions start around political issues with posts such as, “The West is always sticking its nose in Muslim affairs.” The recruiter assumes different identities for adding credibility to their arguments that revolve around how Muslims are increasingly being abused.
“I’ve noticed one person who can have 52 different accounts and have 20 friends on one account and they’re all the same person. They talk to themselves,” Dr. Torok said.
In the final stage, the agents or the recruiters try to incite radical new recruits to avenge the perceived injustices against their religion. This could either include convincing them to carry out a domestic terror act or travelling overseas to join and work with ISIS.
“But we need to remember that not all radicals become terrorists and not all terrorists are recruited online,” Dr. Torok said.