ISIS sympathizers, supporters and recruiters in the U.S. are finding that the same social media platforms that they have used to expand their reach are now being turned on them with great effect. The FBI is saying that Twitter itself is one the bureau’s best informants.
FBI agents have cited suspects’ tweets in a slew of recent terrorism cases. Federal prosecutors have charged several Twitter users who allegedly support the Islamic State with lying to federal agents about their Twitter activity. In other cases, the FBI has pointed to Twitter activity — including retweets — as probable cause for terrorism charges.
Simply put: Twitter is a target rich environment for snaring those aiding ISIS.
For example, in the second half of 2014, alone, the FBI made nearly 500 information requests from Twitter. These requests are believed to have resulted in some pretty significant arrests, including individuals who have been recruiting for and/or providing material support to the terrorist group.
What makes this so effective is that the individuals are being ensnared by their own words. When these individuals are questioned, FBI investigators are able to compare their statements to their actual posts or direct messages and determine if the person is telling the truth about his/her activity.
While this could get slippery, so far, prosecutors have been seeing success by treating these social media activities no different from any other method of providing support to terrorists.
We are entering a new area of law enforcement and there will be constitutional battles over this approach but, one thing is clear. Twitter is not the place to hide out if you are seeking to spread terror in the U.S.