Ebook: Hypermedia Seduction for Terrorist Recruiting
The primary objective of the authors of this publication is to understand the efficacy of terrorists’ use of the Internet and the scope of this activity, and to analyze the content, graphics and source code. Topics covered include the use of the Internet for psychological warfare in general and for terrorist “narrow-casting” to specific audiences. The discussion focused in particular on the Global Jihad. Terrorist websites were analyzed in terms of common graphical and linguistic motifs. Different methodologies for targeting different audiences were discussed, including the increasing outreach on the part of extremist groups to young children in both Muslim countries and the West. Readers can learn how online communities evolve, and how membership in an online community can promote isolation and radicalization, particularly among immigrant societies. The psychological side of these communities was also dealt with, including extremists’ manipulation of the younger members of immigrant communities. The ultimate goal of this publication is not only to evaluate the effectiveness of terrorist propaganda on the web and its influence on the target audience, but to recommend practical steps that can be taken to counter this effectiveness. This includes the exploitation of vulnerabilities resulting from jihadists’ behavior online, and the analysis of jihadist forums and websites for intelligence gathering.
This book includes the main lectures given in the framework of the NATO-sponsored Advanced Research Workshop on Hypermedia Seduction for Terrorist Recruiting, held 17–21 September 2006 in Eilat, Israel. The workshop brought together researchers from diverse disciplines for five days of intensive discussions. Participants included experts on security, Islamic studies, design and marketing, and psychology from different countries including Israel, USA, England, Russia, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, India and Ukraine.
The workshop's primary objective was to understand the efficacy of terrorists' use of the Internet and the scope of this activity, and to analyze the content, graphics and source code. Topics covered included the use of the Internet for psychological warfare in general and for terrorist “narrow-casting” to specific audiences. The discussion focused in particular on the Global Jihad. Terrorist websites were analyzed in terms of common graphical and linguistic motifs. Different methodologies for targeting different audiences were discussed, including the increasing outreach on the part of extremist groups to young children in both Muslim countries and the West. Participants learned how online communities evolve, and how membership in an online community can promote isolation and radicalization, particularly among immigrant societies. The psychological side of these communities was also dealt with, including extremists' manipulation of the younger members of immigrant communities.
The ultimate goal of this workshop was not only to evaluate the effectiveness of terrorist propaganda on the web and its influence on the target audience, but to recommend practical steps that can be taken to counter this effectiveness. This included the exploitation of vulnerabilities resulting from jihadists' behavior online, and the analysis of jihadist forums and websites for intelligence gathering.
The meeting concluded with an outline of a working plan for countering online recruitment by terrorist organizations. Participants agreed that in order to do this, it is important to target the not-yet-persuaded potential recruits—in particular the younger generation, who are the primary targets of extremist online recruitment. There are phases in the radicalization process when people are most susceptible to manipulation; we need to aim our own counter-radicalization message at those who are at this phase. The psychology of this is very important: extremists exploit the need for belonging, the need for roots and authenticity, the “angry young man” syndrome.
We learned that there is a whole “science of seduction” that we can use to our advantage to counter the extremists' messages. To put this to good use, we need to understand our audience and learn to identify with them enough to know what messages are effective. Branding is an effective way of marketing alternative viewpoints, but first we need to arrive at a common lexicon and a common sense of our own identity, in order to know what it is we're selling.
At the same time, the extremists themselves, in their discussions in the public space of the Internet, give us some hints of their own vulnerabilities. There are plenty of things that we can do in cyberspace to hamper their operations. Some of these possibilities are discussed in the lectures that follow.
To counter the extremists' message, we will have to understand that we are competing for the same audience that they are. We need to learn to operate in the same spheres in which the extremists themselves operate. At the same time, this must be carried out in a sensitive and well thought-out manner, in order to avoid alienating the very audience that we would like to affect. For this and other reasons, it was decided that the best agents for countering extremists on the web are not governments but private individuals, in particular, those in the communities most at risk of extremist propaganda.
Overall, the workshop provided a lively and stimulating venue for discussing one of today's most pressing issues. Moreover, the discussions helped to lay the foundation for future work in this important area.
Terrorism is effective because we don't understand it and, too often, treat it as either a criminal offense or a form of conventional warfare. We do not address it as a form of asymmetric conflict and psychological warfare, but instead try to combat it with traditional military tactics. Too often, these merely play into terrorist hands. By adopting the language and mindset of conventional warfare, we constrain our thinking, and, by extension, our options. As my father used to say: “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” To be successful, we must expand our operational tool kit, with heavy emphasis on PsyOps and Covert Action. These are critical if we are to be successful in the protracted conflicted in which we are currently engaged.
The Shiites make extensive use of shaping new symbols and adding new meaning to old traditions as a meaningful means for social mobilization, broadening their support base, recruitment of new activists and the encouragement of proactive actions in order to achieve the organization's interests. The internet is one of the most significant platforms for Shiite terrorist groups, especially Hezbollah, to spread their messages and shape public opinion by using existing Shiite symbols and creating new symbols for the promotion of Shiite interests. The article will address this phenomenon by analyzing and discussing concrete examples from Shiite websites.
Al Qaeda and radical Islamic terrorism rely on future recruits and sympathizers more than on any other factor. Terrorists do not use the Internet for direct operational recruitment, but rather to shape a committed virtual radical Islamic community from which individuals will be identified as potential candidates for recruitment. Radical Islamic websites extensively use text, imagery, audio and special idioms and phrases in their websites in order to enhance its radicalization capability. The article addresses the methods and means of internet sedition.
Understanding the culture-specific attributes of cognitive style and communication is essential for successful interaction with those members of a culture who use the Internet and other means of communication. The cognitive style of members of the Arab culture is integrative and holistic. Arab culture is described as “high context” and “indirect”; the path of communication is nonlinear and associative, rather than organized. Arab culture is also an oral culture, in which language serves to create an emotional experience rather than merely to transfer information. As an outward manifestation of certain principles of communication, a message in Arab culture is characterized by extensive use of metaphors and symbols, vagueness, repetition and exaggeration. All of these characteristics are perceived as comprising an elevated form of language.
Without recruitment, terrorism cannot prevail, survive and develop. Recruitment provides the killers, the suicide bombers, the kidnappers, the executioners, the engineers, the soldiers, and the armies of future terrorism. The Internet has become a useful instrument for modern terrorists' recruitment. It combines several advantages for the recruiters: it makes information gathering easier for potential recruits by offering more information, more quickly, and in multimedia format; the global reach of the Net allows groups to publicize events to more people; and, by increasing the possibilities for interactive communication, new opportunities for assisting groups are offered, along with more chances for contacting the group directly. Also, through the use of discussion forums and chat rooms, the Internet also allows members or potential members of the group to engage in debate with one another. Online recruitment by terrorist organizations is said to be widespread, though the Internet is used more for initial attraction, ideological recruitment and social support than for direct recruitment. Moreover, the online process is more often activated to reward recruits and suicide terrorists, thus serving as an additional indirect recruitment initiative. Finally, terrorist recruiters may use interactive Internet technology to roam online chat rooms looking for receptive members of the public, particularly young people, using sophisticated profiling procedures.
The media is viewed by the Islamist terrorist organizations as one of the fronts of jihad against their enemies. The media platform most favored by activists and supporters of Islamist organizations is the Internet, due to its anonymity, availability, low cost and instantaneous communication. The organizations and their supporters disseminate their message via websites and forums in different languages, targeting diverse audiences worldwide. These organizations also utilize the Internet for military and operative purposes in the service of the jihad fighters in the field, but their primary use of this medium is for indoctrination and propaganda. They distribute various messages aimed mainly at glorifying the organizations' activities, spreading their extremist ideology and enlisting support and legitimacy, as well as threatening and influencing their enemies. This Internet activity is described as “propaganda jihad” or “media jihad”, waged by those who cannot participate in the actual fighting. Furthermore, Islamist sites constitute an arena of confrontation in their own right. These sites are targeted by hackers trying to disrupt their activity, and in turn encourage Islamist hackers to target “enemy” sites. Islamist organizations also confront the activities of elements suspected of being intelligence agents infiltrating their sites. In addition, the sites constitute an environment for Arab attempts to initiate dialogue with the extremists in order to persuade them to renounce their extremist views. Finally, despite their view of the West as an enemy and of Western culture as corrupt, Islamist organizations do not hesitate to utilize the services of Western Internet companies, and many of their sites are hosted by Western servers. Consequently, it is largely up to the West to come up with solutions, by appointing a body that will issue warnings to the public about sites that disseminate incitement and encourage terrorism, or through legislation that will ban this activity.
The Internet is playing an increasing role in terrorism – not only in obvious areas such as command and control, technical instruction, and the publishing of ideological tracts, but also as a social medium in which groups of people form “virtual communities”. In some cases, these communities can become progressively radicalized to the point where they eventually commit or support acts of violence. An understanding of “virtual communities” is necessary in order to create means of preventing them from functioning as incubators for terrorism.
The far right in the USA and Germany, together with Islamists and jihadists globally, were among the first groups to use the Internet to promote their beliefs, and to direct their activities nationally and transnationally. They recognized that they could publish material which in other formats might be subject to state scrutiny and sanction, and that the medium itself could lend a sense of authority that would otherwise be lacking; furthermore, they could do all of this at a low cost. Both the far right and the Islamists and jihadists share elements in terms of their apocalyptic and messianic, totalitarian belief systems. There has been a mutually reinforcing influence between Islamism, Fascism and Nazism, and these groups are all prepared to use extreme violence against military and civilian targets in pursuit of their aims. They have done so already, with substantial loss of life. There is now evidence that these groups are influencing the other. Some far right extremists have expressed support for jihadi terror, some Islamist sites have republished far right material, and there are many common themes. There is no suggestion, at this stage, of collaboration between them, but law enforcement agencies should be aware of the common links.
Seven uses for websites and other Internet tools can be identified, as used by extremist groups: promotion of ideology; propaganda and incitement; internal communication; recruitment; fundraising; training (including the publication of bomb manuals); command and control (including planning, networking and coordinating action). International organizations which are examining the growth of extremist Internet sites should recognize that the medium has become the primary vehicle for promoting such groups' ideas, and for organizing terrorism and even for training adherents. Counterterrorist initiatives should agree on more effective monitoring and interdiction regimes.
Monitoring terrorists' use of the Internet provides an opportunity to collect information about the root causes driving terrorist warfare. Terrorist groups and their supporters are extensively active on Internet websites and in chat rooms and forums. Tracking such sites yields information about their grievances, ideologies, ambitions, and other factors that motivate them to conduct terrorist activities. The methodology presented in this chapter aims to enable counterterrorism analysts to hierarchically decompose the underlying factors driving a terrorist insurgency, by focusing on the content of terrorist-related websites.
The classical definitions for terrorism are related to its characteristics of disorder and insecurity, and are inappropriate for “post-9/11” thinking. The current situation is caused by the chaos of a changing world, which has created modern types of terrorism. But the “new” terrorist dynamic must be considered as a continuation of the “old”, and also as the “continuation of politics by other means”, to use the words of Carl von Clausewitz. Certain new elements and new directions have added to the effectiveness of modern terrorism, including the latest media means; the “new” terrorism and the media share a symbiotic relationship. This form of terrorism is itself a media-psychological weapon, which damages the communicative sphere and creates massive threats to the wider society.
In this chapter we discuss technical issues regarding intelligence and security informatics (ISI) research towards accomplishing the critical missions of international security and counterterrorism. We propose a research framework addressing the technical challenges facing counterterrorism and crime-fighting applications, with a primary focus on the knowledge discovery from databases (KDD) perspective. We also present several Dark Web-related case studies in collecting, analyzing and visualizing open-source terrorism information. Using a web spidering approach, we have developed a large-scale, longitudinal collection of extremist-generated Internet-based multimedia and multilingual contents. We have also developed selected computational link analysis, content analysis, and authorship analysis techniques to analyze the Dark Web collection.
The internet is crucial to the daily operations of the radical groups making up the global jihad. The internet supplies the jihad movement with its recruiting and propaganda interface, as well as the means for ideological growth and the exchange of ideas. Without free and open communication, a movement of this size breaks down. The jihadi online presence is literally the physical brain of the global jihad movement. The very openness and accessibility of this medium provides the intelligence community with a wealth of material for foundation intelligence and analysis. This resource has been neglected in recent years due to lack of qualified researchers and linguists. The key to countering these problems may lie in harnessing the power of the private and academic sectors as unofficial research arms of the counter-terrorism community.
This chapter provides a combatant's perspective on Internet use by the forces of the Global Jihad. The aim is to familiarize the reader with the terrain, the actors, the technologies, the benefits which accrue to jihadists by virtue of their Internet use, and the ways and means by which we may exploit various aspects of such use to defeat this global threat.
This chapter is about design, here defined as a process that changes the interactions in a system so that the structure of the system itself is ultimately changed. Thus this chapter is about the capacity of design to bring about a new or an emergent behavior within a system. The present concept of design, and the difficulty arising from its methodology, do not allow for taking control of the various endogenous and exogenous components inherent to the working process in an objective way. Taking into account this drawback, the chapter presents a proposal for a methodology that will be an innovative concept of design. This methodology stems from the Gestalt approach, and is based on the method of measuring the amount of relativistic information in a system. Such an approach lends itself to implementation in the field of website design, with the aim being the development of persuasive tools.
The roots of contemporary, so-called Islamic terrorism are not uniquely religious; other historical influences are also at play: the crisis of modernity. The promise of modernity has resulted in a crisis of confidence. Globally, the hopedfor results of modernization have not been achieved, and in some instances this has led to extreme reactions. Today's terrorism should not be seen as a war between civilizations so much as a psychosocial reaction to the perceived untruths of modernity. This reaction takes on a sense of subcultural self-determination. Individuals who lack professional tools adopt a “bricolage” (do-it-yourself) approach in developing ideological “castles” and an Internet presence, relying on the promotional strategies of viral marketing. Resistance to “the” establishment is strengthened through recycling cultural artifacts which stemmed from the establishment itself. This recycling of what may be termed ideological waste parallels the social environment described by the cyberpunk literary movement of the late twentieth century. Thus, in terms of communications design, an answer to terrorism would require the development of alternative myths, which should also be given an Internet presence. Such myths need to be shaped by a new global consciousness, and animated by a new vision of the human journey.
The concept of terror as a form of psychological warfare implies that there is more to terror than mere physical acts of violence. There is a non-physical component in action, which helps to carry and communicate the message of terror. Brands can be powerful tools for communicating ideas, building loyalty and driving choice. Brands have historically been associated with products and corporations, but the techniques of branding are applicable to every area of mass communications. The goal of this chapter is to examine the visual communication strategy of Hezbollah, using a brand identity and corporate communication framework. The underlying assumption is that any approach for countering terrorism should not only deal with the prevention of terror attacks, but should also enhance an understanding of the nature of the threat itself.
This chapter aims to extend the examination of seductive online user interactions, specifically when divergent hypermedia domains are presented for evaluation. In our earlier work, we recognized the need for researchers in the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) to consider seduction beyond what is popularly assumed of this phenomenon. Accordingly, the benefits we believe attainable when the concept of seduction is applied were highlighted. In this chapter we expand our initial ideas, by giving developers and researchers a practical insight into how the mechanics of hypermedia seduction currently may enhance and sustain the appeal of more engaging hypermedia products. A demonstration of our approach allows us to reveal the seductive strategies characteristic of an e-commerce website which delivers a more engaging user experience. In the second part of this chapter, we consider how our conceptual model may be utilized to evaluate more “extremist” hypermedia forms, specifically websites that are created and hosted on behalf of terrorist organizations. In our method, we consider the negative aspects of hypermedia seduction. We focus specifically on how certain factors may play an active role in influencing user behavior, by exploring the seductive strategies apparent in “extremist hypermedia”. At this stage, we are able provide some indications of the seductive means used by the developers and creators of websites in this genre. From an interdisciplinary perspective, we also provide researchers with a useful starting point towards understanding the mechanics of “extremist hypermedia seduction”. We anticipate that as knowledge about the nature of the interactions and communications of both the users and the creators of extremist websites improves, more suitable and effective methods for countering online extremism or terrorism may emerge.
The reality of globalized media critically influences the terrorist threat by increasing the “inequality of arms”  between terrorism and counterterrorism. Such concerns can never overshadow the innumerable benefits of global communication networks in most areas of human activity, but, as long as counterterrorism is considered a priority, these concerns do need to be taken into consideration. They have a bearing on any decisions which may have a direct or indirect impact.
Terrorist groups use the Internet to drive every aspect of their business: psychological warfare, data mining, fund-raising, recruitment and mobilization, planning and coordination, and Internet indoctrination. Radicalization of individuals is a dynamic group process often activated or boosted by radical Islamic websites. Terrorism and anti-terrorism are based on narratives, and whichever story is able to persuade the majority of people will win. I argue that the West is losing the war on terrorism because our story is not persuasive enough, and because we do not use the gateway of mass persuasion—the Internet—effectively enough. Fighting radical terrorist groups will take more than firepower; the battle of ideas has to be fought and won in the digital battlefield. The terrorists' infrastructure and their belief system has to be attacked in the air, via the Web and on the ground. The goal of this chapter is to provide an analysis of possible tactics tailored for countering Islamist narratives on the Internet, and to emphasize elements of strategy for countering those narratives. The first part of the tactical analysis will discuss methods of neutralization of terrorist websites and chat-rooms. The second part of the tactical analysis deals with the Web as a counter-propaganda tool. The basis of the findings has been a broad analysis of political Internet campaigns.