Following the shooting in Garland, Texas last week, the FBI has issued a new warning of more domestic attacks connected to ISIS. By using social media propaganda, ISIS has expanded their reach into the US, and with the expansion of technology, tracing their influence is more challenging than ever. It is becoming increasingly difficult to manage the threat of violent extremism because people who may not be directly connected to terror groups can still be influenced and inspired by them online, especially those who are mentally unstable. How should the US respond to these threats?
There are a few things that we can do to curb the spread of ISIS activity. Since mental health plays a huge role in radicalization, we have to gain a better understanding of it to prevent those individuals from falling through the cracks. Secondly, by reaching out to the Muslim community, law enforcement has been able to obtain intelligence and develop programs to counter-violent extremism through community partnerships; we need to continue building positive relationships and engaging in collaborative dialog with the greater Muslim community. Finally, the most important and effective course of action we can take is online. Earlier this year ISIS sympathizers, known as the Cyber Caliphate, hacked into the U.S. Central Command social media pages to demonstrate their online dominance. This week, a group calling themselves the “Islamic State’s Defenders in the Internet” released a video threatening cyberattacks across the US, Europe, and Australia. This war on terror should be an information war fought in the digital space with thoughtful messaging and social media, rather than on the ground with bombs. The only way we can combat extremism across the world is by countering the narrative that ISIS puts out there.
*Originally posted on In The Loop, a Chron blog by Mustafa Tameez on 05/13/15