World map from 1910.

Separatist, Para-military, Military,
Intelligence, and Political Organizations

Organizations Using the Internet

This is not a new phenomenon — I have had some version of these pages since the mid-to-late 1990s.

In 2014, Gabriel Weimann of the Wilson Center published his study "New Terrorism and New Media", addressing the use of social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other popular platforms. He wrote, in part:

Terrorist use of online platforms is not new. After the events of 9/11 and the antiterrorism campaign that followed, a large number of terrorist groups moved to cyberspace, establishing thousands of websites that promoted their messages and activities. Many terrorist sites were targeted by intelligence and law enforcement agencies, counterterrorism services, and activists, who monitored the sites, attacked some of them, and forced their operators to seek new online alternatives. The turn to social media followed.


Terrorists have good reasons to use social media. First, these channels are by far the most popular with their intended audience, which allows terrorist organizations to be part of the mainstream. Second, social media channels are user-friendly, reliable, and free. Finally, social networking allows terrorists to reach out to their target audiences and virtually "knock on their doors"—in contrast to older models of websites in which terrorists had to wait for visitors to come to them.

Terrorists' most important purposes online are propaganda, radicalization, and recruitment.


Generally, two types of Facebook pages with terrorist content can be identified: official and unofficial. Official pages are often introduced with a statement by the sponsoring group, which also has other Internet forums and media. An example is the "Al-Thabaat" page, emerging on Facebook on May 5, 2013, and describing itself in the "About" section straightforwardly as "Jihadi page for the group, 'Ansar al-Islam.' Not surprisingly, the page offers links to the official forum, and also the Twitter account, of Ansar al-Islam. In December 2013, Al-Fajr Media Center, the exclusive online distributor of al-Qaeda propaganda, released a new encryption program call "Amn al-Mujahid" (Security of the Mujahid). The program and its 28-page user manual were issued on jihadi forums. Some jihadist forums maintain Facebook pages under their very own name; for example, the forum of Ansar al-Mujahideen actually mirrors all of its content to a Facebook page named "Ansar al-Mujahideen Network" via an RSS feed. Unofficial pages, by contrast, are mostly maintained by sympathizers who disseminate propaganda or instruction material. For example, jihadists allegedly supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant launched a website-based encryption program called "Asrar al-Ghurabaa" (Secrets of the Strangers), which users can utilize to securely communicate. An administrator of the jihadi forums al-Iraq wal-Sham announced the launch of the program on November 26, 2013, and described how to access and use it.


Twitter has recently emerged as terrorists' favorite Internet service, even more popular than self-designed websites or Facebook, to disseminate propaganda and enable internal communication. Terrorist use of Twitter takes advantage of a recent trend in news coverage that often sacrifices validation nad in-depth analysis for the sake of almost real-time coverage. Under these conditions, especially when there are few options, mainstream media may take tweets as a legitimate news source. Terrorists repeatedly and methodically exploit this shortcoming for propaganda purposes.


Twitter has become the main hub for the active dissemination of links directing users to digital content hosted on a range of other platforms. Similarly, Twitter was used to publicize the eleventh issue of al Qaeda's online English magazine Inspire after the common practice of uploading the magazine to jihadi forums became increasingly difficult in the face of constant hacking and content removal by various counterterrorism agencies. The tweets directed users to sites where Inspire was available.


Twitter may also be used for practical communication. When US airstrikes against Syria seemed imminent in August 2013, several jihadi and Hezbollah groups in Syria used Twitter's real-time function to exchange urgent communications, preparing for attacks that they thought were aimed at themselves.

The report content may be reproduced in whole, or in part, for educational and non-commercial uses, pursuant to the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Licence found at and provided this copyright notice and the following attribution is given:

Weimann, Gabriel. "New Terrorism and New Media". Washington, DC: Commons Lab of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2014.

Available for download free of charge at

In 2007, Bruce Riedel wrote "According to one expert, there are at least 4,500 overtly jihadi web sites that disseminate the message of Al Qaeda." From "Al Qaeda Strikes Back", in Foreign Affairs, May/June 2007, pp 24-40. Riedel's background: 29 years of service in the CIA, National Intelligence Officer for Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Intelligence Council (1993-1995), Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Near East and South Asian Affairs (1995-1997), Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East Affairs on the National Security Council (1997-2002).
In May 2007, members of a U.S. Senate committee said that extremists are increasingly using the Internet to "recruit, organize, conduct online courses, raise funds and plan attacks in a matter that's cheaper and speedier than ever before." Michael Doran, Deputy Assistant Secritary in the U.S. Defense Department, said: "The more than just a tool of terrorist organizations. It is the primary repository of the essential resources for sustaining the culture of terrorism." See the U.S.A. page for more details on these May 2007 announcements.
In late 2001, Michael O'Brien, in his "Ask Mr. Protocol" column (S/W Expert, Dec 2001, pp 15-19), said: "It is trivially easy to find Web sites operated directly by all parties involved in current conflicts around the world, or in some cases by their supporters in more technologically advanced areas."
In 1998, Maj. Gen. John Casciano, USAF director of intelligence, said that most of the 30 top organizations then identified as terrorists by the U.S. government had web pages and used e-mail, and were "fairly well developed" at using the Internet. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 13 July 1998, pp 67-70].

Sometimes the Internet presence seems to be the organization itself, sometimes it seems to be nothing but advocacy for or against a cause by an individual or group, and sometimes it is very difficult to tell just what is going on.

As the Internet presence of groups has shifted from mostly English to other languages (Arabic, Urdu, etc) and I unfortunately do not have time to attend universities studying various languages, this has become impractical for me to maintain — if you have any suggestions or corrections, please contact me.

See the 2007 article "Al Qaeda Strikes Back" in Foreign Affairs. Most of the 30 top organizations then identified had an Internet presence.

And no, you do not have my permission to put a copy of this on your web site.

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