I’ve been thinking for awhile about 1) why the social media of choice for jihadi orgs and media outlets is discussion forums and 2) why few to no jihadi orgs and media outlets have a Twitter or Facebook account (recent exception here). (Marc Lynch first noted this phenomenon some time ago but I can’t find his post.) Since Shaun Waterman raises the issue in a recent column, I thought I’d take a stab at explaining why. Here are two hypotheses:
- Vulnerability: Accounts on Twitter and Facebook are too easy to shut down. You can flag an account to the administrators and they will remove it. Jihadi orgs could set up new accounts but then they’d have to let their followers know where to find them. By the time they do, the admins will be hip to the problem and move to close the accounts down again. Compare this with the forums, which have multiple addresses and jihadis control membership.
- If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It: Jihadis jumped on forums around 2005 and have perfected their use for pushing propaganda and building communities. The system still works well for them, so why bother changing it (h/t Daniel Kimmage, who is now in ghayba). Recent forum closures may make them question this inertia.
I know AaronW and others will have different takes, and I look forward to hearing them. Just want to get the ball rolling. Note that this is about organizations and not individuals supporters, many of whom have accounts on Twitter and Facebook.
Caveat lector: I am a complete Twitter neophyte and have managed to withstand the ridicule from friends and family for not having a Facebook page.
Update: The Translation Brigades on Ansar forum have translated Shaun’s article into Arabic (jihadi site). H/T Aaron Zelin.