The power of social and digital media is immense as it can give fame and recognition while at the same time destroys someone’s life or career. But the most dangerous use of the digital space can be seen as a platform for the terrorists and militant to spread their brand of hatred, fear, and destruction.
The impact of amalgamation of digital media and terrorism has enabled the extremists to reach a larger audience present in every corner of the world. Ex COAS Gen Raheel Sharif while addressing a session titled “Terrorism in the Digital Age” at the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2017 relayed that digital platform gives terrorists a huge advantage. He agreed with other panelists that how dangerous terrorism is in the digital age and added, “It’s not only a cancer, it’s a deadly cancer.”
While answering a question about how digital platform gives the radicals an advantage to act quickly, Gen Raheel Sharif said; “I personally feel that these terrorists have the ability to mutate, morph and they can do it very quickly.”
He also said; “Recruitment is one thing which is done on that [social media] and I think the financier, abettors, facilitator and the sympathizers all of them are involved in this.”
The new technologies have granted surprisingly easy ways for people to spread propaganda among the masses. The new mediums on digital media have made disseminating the films and images of the terror groups quite easy.
Even today, where different social media and tech companies are determined to fight all kinds of cybercrime and harassment, the videos of executions made by groups like ISIS where people have been decapitated, shot, blown up, hurled from tall buildings or burned alive are still available for the public to watch. Such videos can be viewed from any device that is connected to the Internet with the added bonus of uncensored content.
The relationship between digital media and terrorism has been an old one as the extremists use it to induce fear and panic among a large number of people in order to influence the policy makers. The recent development and advancements in technology have enabled them to achieve this purpose which further enables them to advance their goals.
Terrorists nowadays are using gadgets like GoPro to document their disturbing activities via video recording. Also, with new features like live video streaming it won’t be long that an individual attacker, or a terrorist group, broadcasts live stream of an attack from the point of view of the killer and when something like this would happen we will be forced to decide whether or not we will watch.
The controversial cybercrime bill of Pakistan also addresses the issue of terrorism under Article 10 which clarifies the cyber offenses and intents that can constitute as a cyberterrorism. It furthers look at hate speech and recruitment, funding and planning of terrorist activities in section A and B respectively.
The global cyber environment faced quite a blow in 2016 as it saw 3,000 major data breaches in response to cyber attacks were reported which exposed 2.2 billion records. Last year a massive DDOS attack was able to shut down the tech giants including Twitter, Reddit, Spotify and many other.
Further based on the cybersecurity situation we all faced last year, it has been predicted that the Internet may shut down for 24 hours in 2017. Under such situations, it’s not just the threat of a few videos from terrorists that we’re facing, but destabilizing the entire nation with a few keystrokes is the future face terrorism.
Digital media no doubt has advanced the lives of people and has made us more connected but so has helped the extremists in easily circulate their hate and ideology, no matter how twisted it is. Terrorism is not just an issue of Pakistan or middle east rather it affects the whole world as Gen Raheel said in his WEF address; “Terrorism is a global issue, and the global community will have to unite if it wants to defeat terrorism.”