In an exclusive report by the AP today, is seems as though a recent planned terror attack was thwarted by the social network Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB). No, this was not a privacy-related matter where Facebook was going through users’ data and discovered the attack. Rather, in what can only be called incredibly stupid, the would be attacker made it clear in a post on Facebook that he, and others, planned to attack the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta.
Sefa Riano Said Good Bye To His Parents On Facebook
Inexplicably, Sefa Riano not only made it abundantly clear that he considered himself a jihadist, but even said goodbye to his parents on Facebook before changing his status to ominously read, “God willing, I will take action at the Myanmar Embassy, hope you will share responsibility for my struggle.” He then ended the status update with a smiley face emoticon.
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A few days later, Mr. Riano was arrested in Central Jakarta on the back of a motorcycle with a backpack full of pipe bombs lashed together. Mr. Riano is presently awaiting trial, and certainly questioning his use of social media.
In Mr. Riano’s defense, he didn’t post his intention under his real name. Suffice is to say however, that Indonesian police didn’t have too much trouble tracing him to his Facebook name, Mambo Wahab, which incidentally remains up on Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) to this day.
Militant Groups Used Facebook
While police were able to arrest Mr. Riano based on his Facebook posts, they also believe that militant groups used Facebook to incite and recruit Mr. Riano in the most populous Muslim nation on earth, one where one in four people use Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) owing to cheap smartphones and data plans.
Muhammad Taufiqurrohman, an analyst from the Center for Radicalism and De-radicalization Studies, said there are at least 18 radical Facebook groups in Indonesia, and one of them has 7,000 members. While Facebook shuts down these sites when they are actively promoting terror or hate speech, new pages can be set up in minutes and can easily be turned “private” by administrators.
William McCants, a former U.S. State Department analyst who studies online Islamic extremism for the U.S.-based Center for Naval Analyses, said governments in many countries “are just waking up to the fact that the conversation (about extremism) is moving to newer social media platforms.”
That’s a frightening statement. If Mr. McCants thinks Facebook is a “newer social media platform” I worry that those studying militant behavior online, might need to be a bit younger. Just saying.
“On Facebook and Twitter, you can really go after people who broadly share your ideology but haven’t really committed themselves to violence,” he said.
And police can pick them up, if and only if, they confess to the attack before actually committing it. At best, a lukewarm commitment to terror and certainly a violation of the terrorist’s oath.