Virtual Extremism: How Social Media Gave Terrorist Groups a Second Wind

It's no shock that militant groups around the world make use of mass communication tools like the Internet in order to recruit new faces and keep isolated cells informed of worldwide developments. The power of virtual communication is again in the spotlight after Islamic militant group Al Qaida used Internet message boards to announce their intent to bomb South Africa's World Cup this June.

There is valuable knowledge to be gained by understanding why militant groups – including American-based right-wing militias recently raided by the FBI – are turning to New Media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and free message boards in order to organize and promote their messages. But don't expect to find an Al Qaida fan page on Facebook – in many cases, the social networking of militant organizations is rudimentary and easily destroyed: The perfect cover in an age of increasing anti-terror surveillance.

Let's take a look at how global militant groups are falling in love with the message-amplifying power of virtual communities, and why some in the United States intelligence community are wary of the virtual world's potential to serve as an unwitting base for real-world radicals.

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