In his Daily Beast column, "Can Muslim American's Stop ISIS?", Dean Obeidallah notes that Muslim leaders are already reaching out to fellow Muslims to prevent them from turning to the evil distorted version of Islam presented by ISIS and al-Qaeda. But reaching out to potential ISIS recruits in mosques and on the street is not enough because their most effective recruiting takes place online. Obeidalla writes:
[Edina Lekovic of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) ] noted that the challenge is that these lone wolf terrorists are in general neither part of the Muslim community nor attending mosques. Or if they are mosque goers like it appears the San Bernardino shooter was, the radicalization doesn’t occur there but rather online.
This very point was also made by Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. As Hughes noted, there were 56 people arrested in the United States in 2015 for ISIS-related activities. How do these people get recruited? Primarily through social media as ISIS recruiters reach out and groom people to join.
I don't have a silver bullet, but I do have a bronze bullet that can hamper ISIS recruiting while reducing the disturbingly high levels of Islamophobia that has led to a record number of attacks in the United States against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim.
Before discussing my bronze bullet, I must first mention that Twitter and other social media sites delete accounts thought to be associated with ISIS, but this tactic can only have limited success. The Brookings Institution estimated that ISIS supporters were behind 46,000 Twitter accounts between September and December 2014. Twitter removed 1,000 of them during that time, but between January and June 2015 it refused to honor 25 requests by U.S. government officials to remove accounts they claimed to belong to ISIS supporters. I am not sure why Twitter refused to honor these requests, but Twitter's refusal is likely to become Exhibit A in a lawsuit filed by Tamara Fields, a Florida woman whose husband was killed by ISIS in Jordan. This lawsuit may spur Twitter to become more aggressive in removing questionable accounts, but even if Twitter becomes VERY aggressive it will only have a limited impact on ISIS. It only takes an ISIS supporter five minutes to open up a new account after losing an old one, thus forcing social media site owners into a never ending game of whack-a-mole.
So what else can social media sites do if they can't keep ISIS off of them completely? They can inoculate their users with a vaccine that will reduce their vulnerability to ISIS propaganda. Here's how Twitter can do this. I will be using "Twitter" as an example, but what follows pertains to Youtube, Facebook, and other social media sites as well.
Users of a site have to read a Terms of Service agreement and click "I agree" whenever they sign up for a new account. Of course, most people just click "I agree" without reading the TOS agreement, but whether they have actually read the TOS or not makes no difference to what follows.
Before we allow you to open a new account, we require you to read the following open letter to potential ISIL recruits.We have designed a very special treasure hunt to ensure your actually read most of the letter before we allow you to have a new account. There is a nonsense sentence embedded somewhere within the article. It will be VERY obvious that the sentence is nonsense and does not belong in the article. For example, you might find the following buried somewhere at random within the article:The mouse chased the cat until it played "They're coming to take me away" on the violin.You must find the nonsense sentence, copy it, and paste it into the box below in order to obtain an account.
I acknowledge that hundreds of Islamic scholars have condemned ISIS and have agreed with extensive analysis based on sacred Islamic texts proving that ISIS's brutal activity is justified only by a twisted and evil interpretation of Islam. The vast majority of Muslims around the world condemn ISIS as unIslamic. For more details, see the following.
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