As a law enforcement officer in Northeast Florida, the arrest of a 19-year-old local man named Shelton Thomas Bell got my attention. In January of this year, Bell was sentenced to twenty years in federal prison for conspiring and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. He burned American flags, recruited support locally, conducted “training missions” locally, and even traveled in an attempt to join Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen. Not surprisingly, the Internet played a significant role in Bell’s radicalization and terrorist activities.
Is it any surprise that terrorists recruit and communicate through the Internet? According to a Pew Research Center study, by 2013, only 1 in 7 Americans weren’t using the Internet. Social media platforms have revolutionized the way people communicate, interact and participate in modern society. The same is true for terrorists who have developed an undeniable presence on the Internet. Using the Internet, terrorists are able to tailor customized messages and publish them on multiple platforms, often times operating in an uncensored environment.
The Internet also allows average citizens around the globe to explore radical ideologies without ever leaving the privacy of their own homes or the safety of their own computers. The Internet provides a powerful and influential medium in which the sharing of radical ideas and recruitment efforts by extremists can occur interactively in the shadows, anywhere in the world and by anyone who has an Internet connection and a device to access the World Wide Web.
Read the Remainder at Medium