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Terrorism Gone Viral: House Committee Hearing on ISIS and Social Media


From Texas Standard

"Terrorism Gone Viral: The Attack in Garland, Texas and Beyond," was the title given to the discussion in the House Committee on Homeland Security. The committee is chaired by Texas Congressman Michael McCaul.

Federal officials wanted to use the attack on the Curtis Culwell Center to illustrate the militant group, the self proclaimed Islamic State's, use of social media to recruit westerners.

Of course it was made more timely by the events in Boston this week that left one dead, and another in custody. Officials say the two men had been under FBI surveillance in part because of their social media activity.

The Texas Standard speaks with David Perlmutter, Professor and Dean of the College of Media & Communication at Texas Tech University, about the global reach of ISIS.

On ISIS and twitter

“You’re seeing another report that’s saying there’s up to 40,000 tweets per support of ISIS. Twitter accounts being created by what I call the ISIS fan boys, that people are not necessarily out to get on a plane and make it out to Syria and Iraq, but are spreading the message. I’m old enough to remember the quaint old days where a terrorist group would kidnap people and demand the newspaper print their manifesto.”

On ISIS’s vast fan base

“ISIS also has a national and international fan base that creates its own messages in support of ISIS. So when we say ISIS we really should disaggregate and say there’s ISIS, the actually card carrying members of ISIS, and then there’s hundreds of thousands, millions of people throughout the world who are creating social media and ingesting social media in support of ISIS.”

On their target demographic

"Their strategy number one is, who is our target audience? Like all good political communications say, who is our target audience? Well, their target audience for want of a better descriptor is a 17-year-old boy in a suburb somewhere, whether it’s Austin or Toronto or Cairo. And they want that 17-year-old boy to get on a plane and come fight for them and die.”

On ISIS’s strategy to recruit new members

“So how do you reach a 17-year-old boy? Well, they’re very sophisticated. You’re not going to have some long white paper on reasons why you should come join us. So what do they do? They create essentially first-person shooter videos where you can say, hey, if you’ve been playing Call of Duty or you’ve been playing Halo you can come here to Iraq or Syria and you can play it for real. I mean you get a real gun, you get to blow up real things. You get to ride around in a real tank. And then the second type of video they create is essentially an action movie trailer where they say, hey, you can star in your own action movie where you’re the hero.”