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Virtual Disputes: The Use of the Internet for Terrorist Debates

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 29 Issue: 7 Dated: October-November 2006 Pages: 623-639
Gabriel Weimann
Date Published
October 2006
17 pages
This article describes the virtual debates among and within terrorist groups that occur on the Internet.
A scan of the Internet in early 2006 revealed more than 4,800 Web sites belonging to terrorist organizations, compared to a mere handful of terrorist Web sites just 7 years ago. Terrorists are using these Web sites for various purposes, including recruitment, fundraising, planning, and training. These sites also provide a location for ideological debates as well as personal disputes among and within terrorist groups. Several examples are offered of online terrorist disputes, including debates within al-Qaeda, a debate between Hamas and al-Qaeda, a debate about the London 2005 bombings, criticisms of al-Zarqawi and Hezbollah, debates regarding democracy, and an exchange between the Sunnis and al-Zarqawi. The author offers an analysis of these debates as well as what is not debated. For example, the author points out that while the Arab media has held extensive debates about the use of suicide bombings, there was not much online talk of this method among the organizations that employ it. There is also a noted absence of debate regarding the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which the author indicates is a cause for concern since other forms of communication have referred to the use of WMD as the “ultimate choice.” On the other hand, there were noted attempts on the Internet to unite the insurgents of Iraq into a unified resistance movement. Other forms of debate included charges of terrorist organizations serving Western intelligence agencies and debates regarding the selection of specific terrorist targets. The use of the Internet by terrorist organizations can be seen as a unique research opportunity to gain insights into the previously veiled world of terrorist organizations. Notes