Twitter, Tweeting, and Terrorism: How Terrorist Organizations Utilize Social Media to Create a Brand


Research Category: Social Sciences, Business, and Law

The rise of social media has created a plethora of new opportunities for individuals to connect and share with each other from all corners of the world. These new developments in communication through the digital world does not come without risk. In recent years, social media outlets have seen an increase in activity in support of various terrorist organizations. With access to these platforms, terrorist organizations have the potential to spread their reach to a whole new audience from their fingertips. This study aims to understand how terrorist organizations have utilized social media for their own benefit. Specifically looking at ISIS, I examine their utilization of social media as it relates to their recruitment efforts, spread of propaganda, and use in facilitating public terror to identify any potential patterns. By analyzing data obtained from the Global Terrorism Database and several related studies, I argue that ISIS has used social media to turn the organization into a brand by capitalizing on the theory of brand culture. By creating a brand image for ISIS, the group effectively keeps the threat of terror alive via its virtual caliphate while the physical caliphate diminishes. Understanding the way terrorist organizations utilize social media is crucial to figuring out the next steps in combating the issue. The findings from this study can be used as a backbone for further discussions regarding the protection of free speech and how this transcends to the digital world regarding the spread violent messaging and the responsibility of social media companies.