Al Qaeda Looks to Make New 'Friends' on Facebook

If you're on Facebook, Al Qaeda wants to friend you. 

Terrorist groups are using Facebook to share operational information and to target, recruit and radicalize members of the general public, according to a Department of Homeland Security report obtained by

The DHS report, "Terrorist Use of Social Networking Sites: Facebook Case Study," notes while terrorists have been using social networking sites for quite some time, their strategies for exploiting Facebook have evolved and that they have learned "the inherent value in exploiting a non-ideological medium."

According to the November report, terrorists and jihadists use Facebook as: 
  • a way to share operational and tactical information, including bomb recipes and weapons maintenance;
  • a gateway to extremist forums; 
  • a media outlet for propaganda; 
  • a source of remote reconnaissance for targeting purposes.

“Every person who connects to the Internet with a computer needs to take this issue seriously," says Steve Graham, senior director for EC Council, a cybersecurity certification membership organization. "Reports like this show we are figuratively sitting next to terrorists. So are our friends, our kids and anyone else who types www.” 

DHS found that among the materials available to Facebook's more than 500 million members are:

  • Informational videos titled “tactical shooting,” “getting to know your AK-47” and “how to field strip an AK-47.” Those videos can be found on the page of a radical public Facebook group that is dedicated to jihad and has more than 2,000 members.
  • A group discussion page featuring Arabic-language IED recipes for explosive ammonia and poisonous smoke bombs, and instructions on how to prepare nitric acid, which is used to make explosive mixtures. The same recipes were also posted on a radical forum, suggesting “some cross-over between radical content disseminated on Facebook and on Islamist extremist forums,” according to the report.

Some radical Islamist forums also maintain Facebook pages. “In this way, Facebook acts as a gateway or launching pad for further radicalization and for easy access to sites where explosives recipes and IED information are regularly posted,” the report says. 

While DHS notes that Facebook is not the only social networking site employed by extremists, its report cites discussion threads collected from well-established radical forums that indicate jihadists are specifically targeting the site.


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