In the fall-out from the horrific terrorist attack on Manchester Arena on Monday, the UK terror threat has been raised to its highest level of ‘critical’ as authorities fear that more attacks are imminent. Whilst MI5 is working round the clock to keep us safe from this, terrorist propaganda and extremist views were spreading quickly, especially on social media.
Social media is a key place for terrorist groups to recruit people for their cause, gather support for their actions, and broadcast their intentions to carry out attacks like the one on Manchester Arena. This makes it crucial that brands and individuals start to carefully monitor their social media pages for content relating to terrorist activity so that the nation can help authorities combat and prepare for further attacks.
We’ve put together our top tips for brands and individuals to make it easy to spot terrorist content, and what to do when you do find it on your social media channels.
What does terrorist content look like?
There are normally two types of terrorist content:
Terrorism Propaganda: Posts containing no specific threats to harm, but that express sympathy to terrorist causes or promote terrorist causes via text or imagery.
Terrorism Threat: A post that contains a threat of action on behalf of a terrorist organization that would bring certain physical harm or death to the wider general public.
To spot both types of content, look out for combinations of words and phrases such as ‘crusaders’, ‘soldiers’, ‘in the name of’, ‘revenge in response to’, ‘shameless’. In the case of ISIS content, you may find a combination of ‘Allah’s permission’, ‘God Akbar, Allah Akbar’, ‘Iraq’, ‘Syria’, ‘God willing’, ‘Islamic State’, ‘just terror’.
Don’t just search using English terms. Use a range of languages to spot intent and think about how images can be used too. For instance, it's reported that the terrorist who bombed Manchester Arena posted tweets like these ahead of the attack:
What should you do if you find terrorist content?
1. Start by taking a screen grab of the post and saving it. This is important, so that you have evidence of it should the poster later delete it.
2. For content appearing on your Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or LinkedIn pages you should then ‘hide’ it from your followers. Hiding the content reduces the number of people who will be able to see the post, thereby limiting its reach. Remember that twitter is not a channel you can own. You can block users but you cannot hide or remove someone’s tweet. You then need to report it to Facebook or Instagram (see point 3).
3. If you see something that's not on the pages you manage but on the wider web you cannot delete someone else’s post, so your only option is to report it to the platform. The platform can then remove the post and gather intelligence for the proper authorities. You can read some guidelines here on how best to report content to make sure you capture the full context of the offending comment, video or image.
Every platform has its own reporting procedures, here are links to the major social platforms’ reporting procedures.
- Facebook’s reporting tools: https://www.facebook.com/help/www/181495968648557
- LinkedIn reporting tools: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/68012?query=report
- Twitter reporting tools: https://support.twitter.com/articles/15789
- Instagram reporting tools: https://help.instagram.com/165828726894770/?helpref=hc_fnav
- YouTube reporting tools: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801927?hl=en-GB&ref_topic=2803176
If you find extreme propaganda or a severe threat, you should also report it to the US authorities at: https://tips.fbi.gov or to UK authorities: https://www.report-terrorist-material.homeoffice.gov.uk/report who will review your report quickly.
If the threat is imminent and credible, call 911 in the US or 999 in the UK.