Why Don’t Jihadi Orgs Tweet?

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

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The Limits of Gamification

Jarret and Alix have published an intriguing article in Foreign Policy on how jihadi ideologues and forum administrators are deliberately applying gaming principles to their discussion boards and propaganda.  The jihadis are doing so to encourage their readers to compete with one another to embody the community’s ethos and take direct action. That’s a new way to frame some old features of jihadi discussion boards and propaganda.  But given that the features were around well before gamification was theorized, it’s a stretch to say that Awlaki or anyone else is deliberately employing gaming techniques in a “systematic” way, as the authors assert.  There are some other claims in the article that are also difficult to verify, such as the notion that competition for things like virtual badges leads to violent action (there may be some other factor causing both intense competition and violence, cases that confirm the theory are few

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Two years, an underwear bomber, an Arab Spring, a new war, and many memos later, I’ve returned to the private sector and blogging.  At the Department of Defense I tried to find ways to persuade academics to write about terrorism.  At the Department of State, I tried to find ways to persuade angry youth not to give academics something to write about. In all of that, I benefited greatly from the work here and around the blogosphere.  The proliferation of sites that dispassionately study Islamist militancy has been heartening, if not the increase of the subject’s importance.  Ibn Siqilli’s and Aaron’s blogs are particularly valuable new resources and Clint’s is a refreshing change of pace.  As for my old standbys, they have only gotten better (I’m looking at you Aaron, Leah, Marc, and Ex).  Now if I can figure out this twitter thingamajigger, I can hang out with the cool kids again.

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