Terror Networks: ISIS Recruits Teens Through Social Media

By Daniel Plastrik

They use Hollywood- quality videos in as many as 23 languages, including English, to make their cause look attractive. Over 90,000 Twitter accounts are under their control.

We are not talking about celebrities, like the Kardashians or Miley Cyrus, who use social media to get attention.

ISIS, a terrorist organization primarily operating out of the Middle East, has grabbed headlines for its violent executions and goal of creating an independent Islamic state.

As social media platforms continue to expand, they have essentially been turned into deadly weapons of manipulation and propaganda by ISIS.

The CIA estimates that ISIS fighters now number 20,000 to 31,500 followers—an alarming statistic.

According to U.S. intelligence officials, over 150 Americans have already joined their cause, along with recruits from such countries as England, Sweden, Germany, Australia, and Canada.

Alejandro Ortiz, senior, affirms that this trend is concerning.

“The bigger the organization is, the more of a threat they become. There’s nothing we can do about it because anyone could be a part of ISIS,” he said.

Mr. Brown, who teaches humanities, shares Alejandro’s concern, stating he is troubled by the phenomenon of ISIS.

“It’s disheartening to feel that people don’t agree with our [democratic] ideals, especially with how much freedom America gives people,” he says. “Instead, they join a group whose ideals are based on torture and murder.”

ISIS has become very slick in targeting susceptible youth. With the intention of brainwashing them, they work first at building a personal relationship through social media.

Helen Smith, an NYC-based freelance journalist, points out how the current global economic uncertainty is contributing to young people feeling increasingly alienated and hopeless.

For these disaffected youth, joining ISIS is a desperate way to gain purpose, meaning, and belonging.

“Unemployment for [people in their 20’s] is staggering,” she said. “To them, the future looks bleak. This makes them more vulnerable to ISIS propaganda.”

Historically, similar dynamics have played out on the world stage with dire consequences.

For instance, between 1692 and 1693, mass social manipulation threatened the rational order of communities, culminating in the deadly Salem Witch Trials.

As social media platforms continue to expand, they have essentially been turned into deadly weapons of manipulation and propaganda by ISIS.

Impressionable girls manipulated by religious zealots with powerful propaganda techniques denounced their neighbors and elders, leading to mass executions and a destabilization of their society.

Advanced technology of modern times has simply raised the stakes on a larger global stage. What are the solutions to this deadly threat?

Better communication is a first step in counteracting recruitment efforts. Parents, teachers, and peers need to be informed and engaged about how social media is being used for recruitment.

We also need to address the psychological and social conditions that lead young people to disengage from society by creating better educational and economic opportunities and reestablishing a vision of a more hopeful future for our citizens.