Attacking ISIL on Twitter: Addressing Ethical Responsibility in the Weaponization of Social Media

  • Grace Callahan


My research revolves around the lack of oversight of social media platforms and the resulting ease in which terrorist groups are able to spread their message, recruit sympathizers, and maintain their network of supporters. Twitter dominates the social media arena as the most popular social media platform for terrorist recruitment, radicalization, and coordination. Consequently, questions emerge related to the establishment of international Internet governance with the issues of distributing ethical responsibility, maintaining protection of the users’ right to freedom of speech, and creating a universal definition of terrorism. To explore the role of nation-states, social media companies, and the public in combating terrorist propaganda posted on social media, this project will analyze the initiatives by each of these actors specifically within the context of ISIL and Twitter. Rather than focusing on the role of only one of these actors, I will compare the effectiveness of initiatives by these actors to discredit ISIL’s self-projection in the media and the creation of regulations on social media content to offer unique insight into the identification of the best equipped force to serve as a counterbalance to ISIL propaganda. I argue that the most effective means of combating the spread of ISIL propaganda on Twitter involves a simultaneous joint effort by nation-states, social media companies, and the public to create a system of international oversight and regulation of social media abuse by terrorists. Exploring the role of Twitter in ISIL’s terror campaign provides the necessary context to counter ISIL propaganda, a development with the potential to ultimately lead to the disruption of the terrorist organization’s network. 
Honors Theses Excerpts