“The Twitter Terrorist”

White Paper on Digital Terrorism
“The Twitter Terrorist”
By Christine Duhaime, BA, JD, CAMS
The Islamic State & the Age of the
Digital Terrorist & Digital Terrorist Financing
“One of the great liabilities of history is that too many people fail to remain awake through
great periods of social change …our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust
to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The most
enemy today
is the Twitter
Today’s most important battles against terrorism aren’t taking place on the
deserts of Iraq or the streets of Syria, but on social media platforms like
Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The Islamic State (“ISIS”) has made clear that
we are in a war against digital terrorists. ISIS is winning the digital terrorism
war and will continue to do so unless the West mounts a digital counterterrorism offensive.
ISIS has succeeded in digital terrorism for four main reasons:
1. Surveillance lag by the counter-terrorism intelligence agencies in the
New battlefield of digital
Why ISIS has succeeded in
digital terrorism
Costs of losing the digital
terrorism war
The need for PPP solutions
in digital terrorism
2. Exploiting the lack of understanding by those driving counter-terrorism
initiatives that young people today live on the online world where ISIS
continues to invest in propagating terrorism on social media.
3. Failure of the creation of a public-private dialogue to create
comprehensive and cohesive counter-terrorism strategy, leaving a
vacuum of oversight by both sectors.
4. Failure to oppose digital terrorism in any cohesive manner.
We need to understand ISIS’ digital terrorism strategy of:
1. Actively recruiting defectors from the West and lone wolves to act;
2. Aggressively engaging the rest of the world online to mould a generation
of young people to glamourize terrorism out of social context;
3. Shocking the world with the brutality of their regime to gain media
attention and provide proof of purchase to ISIS financers; and
4. Soliciting financing through social media platforms.
The West should become familiar with the digital instruments of terror, close
the digital divide, formulate a public-private partnership on counterterrorism, and oppose ISIS on social media with a meaningful counteroffensive that includes a compelling message. We will not have a growing
and vibrant economy if we do not address international security and
eradicate terrorism where it is presently happening – on the iPads and
iPhones in the hands of every teenager watching ISIS’ Reign of Terror.
© 2015, Christine Duhaime
White Paper on Digital Terrorism
If there is one thing the international crisis with the
Islamic State (“ISIS”) has made clear, it is that we are in
the midst of something we haven’t faced before,
namely, a war against digital terrorists where the most
important battles are fought not on the battlefield, but
ISIS’ key weaponry against the West in digital warfare is
not guns, swords and bombs – it is computers, cell
phones, the Internet and social media.
The most dangerous enemy today to the West is the
Twitter terrorist and that’s because such a terrorist has,
with the click of a mouse, the global capacity and reach
to radicalize others to commit domestic terrorist acts,
defect to places like Syria, Yemen or Libya to engage in
terrorism or send funds to maintain the operations of
the terrorist organization.
ISIS is winning the digital terrorism war by a long shot
and will continue to win for years to come unless the
West mounts a competent digital counter-terrorism
Organizations like ISIS have succeeded in digital
terrorism for four main reasons:
Surveillance Lag
Counter-terrorism intelligence agencies took too long to
realize the extent to which terrorist groups, such as ISIS,
were engaged in digital terrorism and the success of
their messaging and global reach. They also took too
long to start monitoring ISIS on social media and grasp
the impact of their digital terrorism activities, including
the ability to engage in digital terrorist financing.
Digital Divide
A deep digital presence is a modern thing occupied by
young people who are being utilized by ISIS for terrorism
efforts, but not by the West for counter-terrorism. They
get digital terrorism – their parents who make counterterrorism decisions often do not, and, therefore, often fail
to appreciate the risks of digital terrorism.
The Twitter terrorist is typically not an adult male in Syria,
nor is it Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – more often than not, it’s
a well-educated teenage ISIS bride from the West locked
in an apartment in Syria, or a young woman in the UK.
The Twitter terrorist engages on social
propagating terrorism 24/7 with a global reach.
© 2015, Christine Duhaime
It is important to understand two things in respect of
Twitter terrorism - any young person in the US, UK,
France, Australia or Canada with a computer or mobile
device and Internet access is a potential Twitter terrorist
and is a also a potential victim of ISIS radicalization. A
Twitter terrorist is also likely a victim of radicalization
herself – she knows what works to recruit defectors,
radicalize other teens and obtain funding for such
operations digitally because she herself was radicalized.
ISIS is very good at pitting the West against itself – we
see that with ISIS placing defectors from the West at the
front lines so that Western troops are faced with the
prospect of having to fight their own citizens on the
ground in Syria. The same is true in digital warfare. ISIS is
using our technology platforms and our corporations to
promote terrorist acts to harm us. Shockingly, we let
Twitter terrorists follow Twitter trends with dedication in
target countries such as France, Russia, Germany, the US
and Canada for recruitment. They use trending hashtags
to reach new audiences among the teenage population
by adding a trending hashtag to tweets.
Typical ISIS Tweet to Radicalize Western Teenagers
ISIS Tweet
popular or
followed by
boys with
Link leads
file posted
by ISIS.
file opens
ISIS video
calling for
kuffars in
Canada, US
& France.
In the example below, ISIS used a trending video game
hashtag #URF2015, to target teenage boys. When teens
click on the link in the tweet, they are taken to a
webpage hosted by Sendvid.com, a US company that
facilitates anonymous uploading of videos, where they
can watch a Hollywood-quality video by ISIS called
“Inside Halab.”
The video is narrated by UK kidnap victim John Cantile
who extols, inter alia, the virtues of ISIS’ agricultural
activities and the efficiency of cutting off the arm of a
person convicted of robbery by a Shariah court, which
ends with a call for ISIS sympathizers in the West to
become “lone wolves” and kill us.
White Paper on Digital Terrorism
Failure of Public-Private Dialogue
Because modern terrorism is largely dependent upon
digital operations, which by its scope extends beyond
national boundaries, it is self-evident that no one
country can defend digital terrorism alone and nor can it
be defended solely by the public sector.
Example of manipulative hashtag used by ISIS.
The use of trending hashtags on Twitter to draw people
to ISIS is becoming more pervasive. The two examples
below are illustrative.
The private sector owners of social media platforms took
too long to act, and often still fail to act, to the use of
their services to host or publish terrorist material and
propaganda that are used to recruit defectors to Syria,
radicalize others to commit terrorist acts and for terrorist
ISIS publishes material on social media sites owned or
controlled by public and private corporations in the
West that incite the commission of acts of war and
treason, call for the overthrow of democratically elected
governments, incite acts of violence, hatred and war
crimes, and provide mechanisms for terrorist financing.
When its comes to terrorist financing, providing material
support to a terrorist organization and the hosting or
publication of terrorist material that incite acts of war,
treason, war crimes or hatred, it is incumbent upon
social media companies to know and comply with the
ISIS uses #RoyalBaby hashtag.
ISIS uses #BalitmoreRiots hashtag.
In the West, the digital divide means that the public
sector is not effectively monitoring this type of terrorist
propaganda by Twitter terrorists and nor do they
demand that hosting companies remove terrorist
material from their websites. Various organizations and
individuals in the private sector, on their own initiative,
have stepped in to fill this public safety role by tracking
Twitter terrorists and asking social media companies to
terminate their accounts.
© 2015, Christine Duhaime
Social media companies are not entirely to blame in all
aspects of counter-terrorism failures – it is incumbent
upon the public sector to educate and inform
businesses and individuals alike on terrorism and
counter-terrorism. National defence and security are the
purview of the government. There are few counterterrorism efforts targeted at the private sector in the
West, with the exception of perhaps the financial
services sector in a limited fashion for counter-terrorist
financing only.
Some non-US government agencies have taken the
position that since most social media companies are
parented in the US, it is up to the US government to
regulate their conduct in respect of counter-terrorism.
However, corporations that provide services in foreign
countries are subject to the publication and terrorism
laws of all of the countries in which they provide
The inactivity of the public sector to engage in digital
counter-terrorism has led to an odd situation whereby
cyber-hacking groups are filling digital counter-terrorism
gaps by shutting down social media platforms that
provide services to Twitter terrorists, such as with
#OpISIS. Although highly effective, this is not the
principled approach we should be relying upon. What is
needed is a referral unit as part of a public-private
White Paper on Digital Terrorism
partnership institution where terrorist propaganda can
be referred and examined by experts and removed in
cooperation with industry partners.
ISIS forbids the wearing of jeans.
Tweet from DigitaShadow on #OpISIS movement.
Failure to Oppose Digital Terrorism
The West has failed to mount an effective digital
opposition force against ISIS on a national or global level
or in a coordinated fashion. There are three things we
are battling with the Twitter terrorist: (i) radicalization
that leads to acts of domestic terrorism; (ii) radicalization
that leads to defection to Syria and acts of foreign
terrorism; and (iii) radicalization that leads to terrorist
financing. All three are destabilizing and threaten
international security. And in all three, the Twitter
terrorist is selling a susceptible teenager or young adult
ISIS’ way of life. Although in the West, we also have
something to sell as a counter-terrorism message to
susceptible young adults targeted by ISIS, we fail to do
so. What are we are selling is obvious – it’s democracy.
To a nineteen year old, living in a democratic society
means they have rights and freedoms they lose with ISIS;
in the West they can go to college, go on dates,
download music and TV shows on iTunes, own an
iPhone, text their friends, lounge on the sofa watching a
movie, walk the dog, watch videos on YouTube, play
organized sports, buy jeans, travel freely or eat at
McDonalds. And they can do all of those things
unimpeded and without fear of incarceration or death,
as may occur living under ISIS’ regime.
Not many teens in the West want to live in a society
where the only laws, rights and privileges permitted are
those from 1,4000 years ago, and likewise not many
want to give up the benefits of democracy.
Some Twitter terrorists who have defected to Syria tweet
about things they miss about the West, such as hugging
a parent, seeing their family, buying fashionable
clothing, having uninterrupted high-speed Internet
service or electricity and eating a hamburger. These are
not trivial or shallow motivators for counter-terrorism –
since the beginning of time, humans have striven for
more creature comforts, not less. People raised in the
West do not lightly give these up.
Young men whipped by ISIS for drinking beer.
ISIS’ digital terrorism strategy has four parts.
Recruitment of People & Terrorist Acts
ISIS’ first digital terrorism strategy, which has been
immensely successful thus far, is to recruit sympathizers
to defect and join them in Syria, through the porous
borders of Turkey. They recruit young men and women
from all corners of the world primarily in English, French,
Arabic, and Russian to join the cause and become
fighters, jihadists, computer programmers, hackers,
doctors, engineers, teachers, propagandists and brides.
ISIS is rebuilding the first modern Islamic State and all are
welcome who believe in the cause want to live in the
caliphate under Shariah law and are prepared to formally
renounce allegiance to their country of origin in favour
of the Islamic State. The prospect of joining a “new” state
and helping shape it is a powerful draw.
ISIS Targets West for Defectors
This story on CNN is a good example of how ISIS uses
social media to recruit people in Minnesota to join them.
© 2015, Christine Duhaime
White Paper on Digital Terrorism
The targeting of Minnesota youth is not random; ISIS
officials research and target certain areas and groups for
radicalization that it believes are more vulnerable and
capable of being manipulated.
Tweet to attack Garland, Texas.
CNN report on recruitment hot spots.
Western nations say 5,000 to 10,000 foreign nationals
have defected to join ISIS from around the world.
However, people on the ground in the area, such as the
Kurds, report that it is closer to 50,000, to 80,000 which is
likely more accurate.
Engagement & Impact with the World
The digital terrorism strategy of ISIS also includes an
engagement component with the world. It is premised
on ISIS’ theory that by engaging with everyone on social
media and widely publishing their propaganda, they will
have impact. Whether the impact is positive or negative
is irrelevant – the goal is to enter Western consciousness.
Tweeting Videos
Videos are a cornerstone of ISIS’ digital media strategy.
As this tweet demonstrates, ISIS has analytics to track
which of its videos are the most popular.
Lone Wolf Recruitment
ISIS also uses social media to recruit and direct
sympathizers to commit domestic acts of terrorism in
their own country. That this has succeeded is not
disputed – there have been numerous ISIS inspired
attacks, including two in Canada, that evidence the
effectiveness of digital terrorism efforts by ISIS. ISIS has
published countless movies and written directives in
numerous languages that are targeted at young men
that implore them to commit terrorist acts at their places
of employment or on their streets against “kuffars1.”
ISIS recruits online using multiple social media platforms
such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Vine, Kik,
WhatsApp, Ask.fm and JustPasteIt. The primary source is
Twitter, which is used to link recruits and sympathizers
to other platforms where videos are published.
A chilling example of ISIS using Twitter to compel lone
wolf attacks in the West, its effectiveness and our failure
to engage in digital counter-terrorism to stop it arose in
the May 4 attacks in Garland, Texas, in which two
sympathizers attempted to attack attendees with
weapons at a cartoon contest.
On May 1, 2015, we came across tweets imploring
attacks in Garland, Texas, such as the one below. A few
days later, there was an ISIS inspired attack in Garland.
Will be catch the next lone wolf attack announced on
Twitter, and in time?
A kuffar is a derogatory term meaning an infidel or non-believer but tends to exclude ‘People
of the Book’, the latter of which are people who are Christian or Jewish.
© 2015, Christine Duhaime
Tweet on Top 10 ISIS video releases.
White Paper on Digital Terrorism
Every Twitter terrorist has a Hollywood-style movie
studio behind her producing an endless supply of
terrorist material used for recruitment and financing that
is shared around the world by thousands of other
Twitter terrorists. Gruesome movies are popular.
Tweeting to Influence the Next Generation
With respect to impact, the best example of the impact
of ISIS’ digital terrorism engagement strategy is the
effect it is having on children who are the largest
consumers of digital media, ergo digital terrorism. Very
young children are watching ISIS’ Reign of Terror on
YouTube and when those videos are deleted, on
JustPaste.It or Ghostbin. Children are now emulating ISIS’
behaviour in mock beheadings and such.
In late March 2015, five children in Italy were suspended
from school for a mock re-enactment of ISIS beheadings
and posting the pictures on Instagram and WhatsApp.
An Italian newspaper posted one of the Instagram
photos online, below.
Children re-enacting ISIS mass beheading video.
Tweet reporting simulated beheading in Italy.
In late February, 2015, a group of teens in Yemen filmed
a mock re-enactment of the beheading of 21 Egyptian
Christians that ISIS beheaded earlier that month. Below
are stills of the children’s re-enactment and the
equivalent frames in ISIS’ original video.
Caliphate Cubs Syndrome
ISIS’ battle for the control of young minds and hearts
isn’t just digital. The ‘caliphate cubs’ syndrome is
resulting in the indoctrination of a generation of young
Syrians and Iraqis into the world of digital and physical
terrorism on an incredible scale. Even if ISIS is defeated,
the million of so incredibly young children in ISIS
controlled territory will present challenges for years to
come. There are many pictures on JustPaste.It and
Twitter like these below, of ISIS children in Syria packing
real guns and swearing allegiance to ISIS, and videos of
them learning to kill “kuffars”.
There are ISIS schools and training camps for children
where they are fed a daily dose of hatred, intolerance
and violence, and repeatedly shown ISIS violent videos
of the deaths of “kuffars”. There are also a clip in a video
of a young boy being taught how to deal with girls who
© 2015, Christine Duhaime
White Paper on Digital Terrorism
have been enslaved by ISIS that are on social media and
available to Western children. ISIS is socializing children
all over the world, creating little caliphate cubs beyond
Syria and Iraq.
That, if for no other reason, is why it seems imperative to
have digital terrorism counter-offensive leadership; the
longer we delay, the more innocent children in Syria and
around the world become indoctrinated and radicalized.
Shock The West
The third part of the digital terrorism strategy is to “shock
the West” and that involves committing and posting on
social media, violent, gruesome and offensive war crimes
and crimes against humanity committed in order to
compel the West to enter into a physical on-the-ground
war in Syria. Two years ago, ISIS correctly determined
that the more gruesome, the more inhumane, the more
shocking their behaviour, as a terrorism strategy, the
more the West will be compelled into action.
Young children of ISIS role-play an execution.
Young boy in Syria shows allegiance to ISIS.
The most horrific ISIS video to date of the death of Moaz
al-Kasabeh, the Jordanian pilot, is still published on social
media platforms owned by Western companies.
Horrific death of Moaz al-Kasabeh on Western-owned
social media.
Part of this strategy feeds into a larger ISIS digital media
strategy to dominate the media around the world. They
know that shocking or gruesome behaviour is
newsworthy. That they have been successful in this
initiative is also evident – every news cast around the
world now leads with an ISIS-related story, whether it be
Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Yemen, France, Jordan, the UK or
Picture of ISIS newborn with weapons.
ISIS has warned that even if we eradicate them, their
indoctrinated children will cause us harm for decades to
come. They may be right.
© 2015, Christine Duhaime
The “shock the West” strategy has a side benefit for ISIS
that they learned from their time as part of al Qaeda,
which is that when horrific videos are posted online,
sympathizers in the Gulf States and in the West respond
with financing. Part of the terrorist financing culture is
“proof of benefit”, meaning that terrorists have to
provide proof on social media platforms to their
financiers in order to obtain additional funding. They
provide proof of benefit by committing and videotaping
attacks that destroy critical infrastructure or cause the
deaths of many “kuffars” and uploading the videos onto
social media platforms.
White Paper on Digital Terrorism
The “caliphate cubs” syndrome is an example of
shocking the West – ISIS had videotaped young boys
executing people and posted them online to shock a
Western audience. If there was any dispute about that, it
was dispelled in the last edition of ISIS’ Dabiq Magazine
in which ISIS wrote, in reference to those videos: “as
expected, the kuffar were up in arms about the Khilafah’s
use of child soldiers.”
A few days ago, ISIS released a high-resolution video
showing a young boy of Eastern European descent
executing a man with a gun at point blank range. An ISIS
sympathizer tweeted: “Kuffar are gonna rage over this
lool “ISIS forces innocent boy to kill civilian” hahahaha”.
Terrorist Financing
As noted above, ISIS is not the first Islamic State and Abu
Bakr al-Baghdadi is not the first person to declare a
caliphate and assume jurisdiction territorially, culturally
and religiously. Watching ISIS is like re-reading the
history of the ancient world, only fast forward 1,400
years. Large portions of their terrorist financing is based
on fundraising practices that existed in the first Islamic
State, such as the sale of women into slavery to men,
taxes imposed on Christians for the right to continue
living and extortion on commercial activities across the
ISIS fighter solicits terrorist financing on Facebook by
selling a Yazidi “slave” girl for $350.
Tweet of an ISIS video of a young boy executing a man.
ISIS is an immensely predictable terrorist group. Part of
their predictability stems from the fact that they are
reversing the clock 1,400 years to recreate the first
modern Islamic State.
Separate and apart from
predictability based on historic patterns of behaviour,
they are predictable because they are transparent on
digital media with respect to their goals, desires,
objectives, strategies and activities.
They have thousands upon thousands of Twitter
accounts and are quite transparent and informative on
all of them. The burning death of Moaz al-Kasasbeh is
one such example, where ISIS tweeted that he was dead
(and he was), yet the media continued to report that
negotiations for his release were taking place.
With respect to the “shock the West” strategy, ISIS’
behaviour will become predictably more repugnant in
terms of human suffering and war crimes as time goes
on and we should brace for that eventuality. We have
not seen the end of ISIS’ Reign of Terror against “People
of the Book”, especially Christians and young children.
Predictably, the worst is yet to come.
© 2015, Christine Duhaime
But what is different is that the financing for terrorist
activities has become digital. For example, slavery by ISIS
may be a reinstitution of ancient practices from earlier
caliphates but now sales of such abhorrent practices can
be international and payments can be digital.
More broadly, ISIS solicits funds on Twitter, Ask.fm,
WhatsApp, Facebook and JustPaste.It, to name a few, for
a myriad of purposes and from around the world.
Although these amounts are quite low in order to fly
under the radar of terrorist-financing reporting
requirements under anti-money laundering laws,
collectively, they are significant.
“You see these appeals on Twitter in particular from
well-known terrorist financiers asking for donations
to be made -- and they’re quite explicit -- that these
are to be made to ISIL for their military
campaign. And that makes the efforts of countries in
the Gulf … more difficult, because these are appeals
that are made over social media and made broadly.”
~David Cohen, Fmr. Under Secretary of the Treasury for
Terrorism and Financial Intelligence
Quote from the testimony of CIA’s David Cohen.
Emerging digital terrorist financing activities are taking
place on the deep web using TOR, an area that is
unfortunately not being monitored as it should. An
White Paper on Digital Terrorism
organization such as ISIS is well-versed on, and uses TOR
to access the deep web for its communications and
fund-raising activities.
appear also to be individuals who are willing to buy girls
enslaved by ISIS. Below is a tweet by an individual whose
Twitter account alleges he is a Canadian who replies to a
tweet about a Yazidi slave girl with a purchase request.
ISIS sympathizer tweets reminder to use TOR.
Deep web to fund terrorism “without a trace”.
In the Tumblr post below posted just weeks ago, a
Canadian who defected to Syria to join ISIS, calls for
sympathizers to “collect money from others” for ISIS
fighters, assuring donors that terrorist financing can be
done “safely and securely” and requesting donors
contact him on KIK for instructions on funding ISIS.
“Can I buy one too? Send one to Kuwait pls.”
Tracking terrorist financing digitally is only possible if we
are engaged in counter digital terrorist financing against
ISIS to detect and prevent digital terrorist financing.
That the West has failed to remain “awake” throughout
the emergence of digital terrorism seems obvious. In
Syria and Iraq, almost ten million people have been
rendered refugees living below the poverty level;
hundreds of thousands of people have been killed; tens
of thousands of young Christian and Yazidi girls have
been sold into slavery and are missing; thousands of
antiquities have been destroyed and the infrastructure
of Syria has all but been destroyed. While terrorists may
inevitably attack our critical infrastructure in an attempt
to create chaos to forcibly install their ideology in the
same way they have done in Syria, those attacks can only
occur if they succeed in their digital terrorism efforts to
recruit people and obtain financing or banking
Tumblr used for terrorist financing by Canadian
soliciting funds for ISIS.
What is the solution to counter digital terrorism?
A Canadian asks to buy Yazidi “slave girl”
The solutions are simple. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said,
we need to “stay awake, adjust to new ideas, remain
vigilant and face the challenges.” No one in ISIS is
smarter than our brightest people and ISIS does not
There are individuals in the West who fund, or who
appear willing to fund, ISIS openly on social media. There
© 2015, Christine Duhaime
White Paper on Digital Terrorism
have more superior technology than us and yet they are
winning the digital terrorism war. In the West, we seem
incapacitated when it comes to facing the challenges
posed by digital terrorism. To cure the problems that
allow terrorist groups to thrive on our social media
platforms requires leadership, commitment and
investment to mount an effective digital counterterrorism strategy. The five key things we need are as
1. Engage in social media for counter-terrorism
Intelligence agencies and law enforcement should
become versatile in, and use, the new weaponry of
terrorism, namely Twitter, WhatsApp, Kik, Ask.fm,
JustPaste.It, Tumblr and the like. Because a group like ISIS
is predictable, it is easy to engage them on social media
and to use their propensity for social media engagement
against them. We should not forget that the Twitter
terrorist is a teenager, likely from the West, spewing out
propaganda. That such a Twitter terrorist would respond
to women intelligence agents more effectively than
men should be obvious. We need Twitter terrorist
counter agents.
the pubic and the private sector to work collaboratively
and for there to be a permanent vehicle to bridge the
two sectors for that collaboration. We also need, at such
an institution, the capacity to refer terrorist propaganda
for identification and removal.
4. A digital counter-terrorism presence
We should oppose ISIS on social media with meaningful
compelling messages. Those who are susceptible, the
target audience, are young people, and counter-digital
terrorism messages targeting young people should be
created with their input and contain messages that are
meaningful to them, not to us.
Below is a tweet that depicts how members of ISIS
watch movies in Syria – huddled around a tiny
smartphone screen. How many teens would prefer to
watch only an ISIS approved movie this way instead of
watching Netflix on their parents’ giant TV in the West
with popcorn, chips and Pepsi? Not many.
2. Close the digital divide
Western intelligence agencies should be closing the
digital divide by becoming versed on digital terrorism
and digital terrorist financing by acquiring expertise in
this area. For example, some law enforcement agencies
seem not to be aware that there are anonymous services
that allow a person from anywhere in the world to send
money or digital payments merely using email addresses
to anyone else in the world through payment
How do we know that ISIS, or its lone wolves in the West,
do not receive digital financing to fund terrorist attacks?
We don’t because there is a significant knowledge and
FinTech gap when it comes to digital finance for
potential terrorist financing that needs to be examined.
Canada especially, has fallen behind the rest of the
modern world in adapting and understanding FinTech.
3. Form public-private partnerships
We should form national public-private partnerships on
counter-terrorism that include a digital component, and
appoint a Digital Counter-Terrorism Officer in each
country who works with other such national appointees,
national agencies and the private sector. Social media
companies have a vested interest in not allowing their
platforms to be used for terrorism but they lack the
knowledge of terrorist threats that the public sector
should provide. It is naïve to believe that only the public
sector can counter terrorism effectively – we need both
© 2015, Christine Duhaime
How ISIS fighters watch movies.
Few young adults would even get on a plane from the
West to Syria if they knew they would be prohibited
from doing the millions of things young adults are
naturally driven to do, can do, and love to do, because
they live in a free and democratic society.
Terrorist propaganda from terrorist organizations such as
ISIS on social media platforms is effective for recruitment
of attacks and terrorist financing because it is emotional,
not intellectual. A counter-terrorism digital campaign
from the West must likewise be emotional.
5. Invest in counter-terrorism
Whatever the cost, we should spend the money and
invest in digital counter-terrorism. ISIS invests
significantly in digital terrorism efforts, in the tens of
millions of dollars annually, and yet except for France
and the US, Western states balk at the suggestion of
White Paper on Digital Terrorism
investing to counter the most dangerous forms of
modern terrorism in existence – digital terrorism.
Investing in digital counter-terrorism is a proverbial drop
in the bucket compared to the costs of a terrorist attack
on critical infrastructure. 9/11 resulted in the loss of 30%
of office space and the loss of many businesses that
ceased to exist. 200,000 full time jobs were eliminated or
relocated out of New York City. The destruction of
physical assets costs private businesses $14 billion and
government agencies $2.1 billion. Rescue and clean-up
costs were $27.2 billion. Insurance, airline, shipping and
military sectors had long-term costs that are incalculable.
Another such attack will have similar devastating costs
including more importantly, costs to human life. The
West is going to be attacked again, whether it be more
lone wolf attacks or a concerted large-scale attack to
critical infrastructure. Whether we continue to sustain
such attacks depends directly on the extent to which we
invest financially on digital counter-terrorism. In the
West, including Canada, the US, France and the UK, there
should be nothing more important, as a matter of policy,
than digital counter-terrorism, including its counterterrorist financing components with emerging FinTech
payment methods that can be made anonymous and
Recent ISIS sympathizer tweet of old video, tweeted not for its content but for its message.
We will not have a growing and vibrant economy in the
West to protect, and nor will we have the democracy
based on the rule of law that our ancestors fought to
establish, if we do not address international security
issues and invest in eradicating terrorism where it is
actually happening with frequency and permanency –
on the iPads and iPhones in the hands of every ten-yearold watching ISIS’ Reign of Terror.
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